Helping a child get into shape isn't always easy, but today's statistics on childhood obesity are cause for alarm. Especially when kids are still young, you can arrest extra weight gain before it begins to become a lifelong problem, though you need to have a delicate touch so as not to shame a child or create excess concern about body image. There are many tips that can help you get a child into shape without causing loss of self-esteem.
First, if a child is very overweight, you should probably take this matter up with your child's doctor. A doctor can look at certain risk factors for obesity, screen for any diseases that are more likely to occur in the obese, and make recommendations about diet and exercise. Getting medical advice is an important first step in helping your child get into shape, and it can give you useful guidelines to follow to promote a healthier lifestyle for your child. It's also a good idea to have a general physical who will clear your child to participate in sports and activities.
You may then want to look at two factors: diet and exercise. What does your child eat and how often, and what level of activity does your child have? If like many children, you child prefers sedentary activities — reading, TV viewing, video game playing — and seldom plays actively, the first step to help the child get into shape is restructuring activity time to promote a more active lifestyle. You can probably not expect that your child will willingly run around the house or do calisthenics just because you say so. Instead, you’ll really want to give thought to how you can create more activity in the day.
For instance, you should consider adding a daily walk or bike ride with your child. This can be a good time to discuss the day, share about school, or just listen to your child talk. Often times children are happy to be active if they get their parents' attention at the same time. Just keep a brisk pace as you're walking and talking, and aim for roughly 30 minutes of walking per day.
Additionally, find out if your child would like to try any sports. There are many different sports that your child could learn about, so don't just think traditionally here. Instead, consider things like martial arts, ballroom dancing, swimming, or any other physically-oriented activity your child would like to pursue.
When you have more time to devote to a child, structure active family activities. For instance, planning a day swimming or boating — paddle or rowing — will provide great activity, and will help a child get into shape easier than a day spent watching movies. Alternately, roller skate at a favorite park, or visit festivals or fairs, or even amusement parks, where you can walk all day. You don't have to take away a child's sedentary habits completely; just try to vary these with physical activity of several hours on weekends and at least a half hour of steady exercise on weekdays.
It is a lot easier to help a child get into shape if parents are modeling active behavior and participating with their children. If getting in shape becomes a family event, and is the focus of weekend activities, children are much more likely to want to participate, though you may hear some whining along the way. Similarly, you must consider how to model good eating behavior for your child.
In general, you should not have tons of fried foods, packaged foods, and high calorie foods in the house. Ban soft drinks and juices, and offer low fat milk instead. Children do like to snack, and when they're in growth spurts, they're very frequently hungry, so have plenty of low calorie snacks like fruit and veggies on hand to satisfy. Enlist your children in preparing meals, and planning menus and shopping trips, and don't forget you need to participate fully in any diet plans yourself. Don't plan to starve a child, but do plan to offer three healthy meals a day, and plenty of healthy and low fat snacks.
When families work together to help a child get into shape, and all family members are participants in exercise and healthy diet, the child is not likely to feel he or she is alone in needing to live more healthfully. In fact, the child's weight or degree of physical shape should not be a topic of family discussion or the main issue. Avoid this topic by asserting rightly that every member of the family will benefit from a healthier and more active lifestyle.