An article I recently read on ScienceDaily.com is the motivation behind this post. That article covered a study that was recently published in Sports Medicine on how high-intensity (this is measured, not simply just an extreme or inhumane amount of exercise) exercise can reduce the amount of adipose tissue of 6-8 year old kids. Obvious right? Get a kid doing sprint intervals on a track or sign him or her up for a daily boot camp session at your local gym and he or she is bound to burn off some fat and lose some weight, extra or not. But in this study, just 10 minutes (yes, 10, not an hour or 2 hours) of high-intensity exercise resulted in less central adiposity (when fat is stored in the mid-section, it is a risk factor for many diseases and other health problems).
Ten minutes is nothing right? Wrong. It maybe used to be “nothing”, but in a time where recess at school is not necessarily the norm and physical education, or gym class, does not happen every day, those 10 minutes of healthy activity–exercise, if you will–may be more hard for your children to come by then you would think.
So here’s an idea: on days that your child doesn’t have gym class or soccer practice or gymnastics practice, etc., plan to do something active with them for a minimum of ten minutes. You may think, “Oh, they have soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a game every Saturday. They really need those other days off to just relax.” Not necessarily. First off, they likely won’t get burnt out by playing at your local park, scootering, skateboarding, or biking around the neighborhood, or playing some frisbee in a nearby safe open space. They’re kids! In fact, they’ll probably love the extra time they get to spend with neighborhood friends, mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, babysitter, aunt, uncle, etc. If having kids exercise in a fun, healthy way isn’t great enough, here’s a bonus: if you’re involved, this idea gets you out the door as well! Heck, stay inside and play some DDR or whatever has replaced DDR at this point (I haven’t played video games in quite a long time); if DDR isn’t high-intensity, I don’t know what is!
But here’s something you must, must remember to do or else the “health” aspect just goes right out the window: fuel your kiddo(s) with some healthful, nourishing, love-filled foods before and after this exercise time. If your child is grabbing a handful of Skittles or downing a bag of Doritos before you start your bonding/exercise/playing time, they’re not going to be getting the same health effects that should be resulting from the healthy activities. The same thing goes for if they walk in the door after a half-hour of playing at the park and go right for the cookies or whatever else is their go-to. This applies to us as adults so why not foster these healthy habits in our youth. It’s kind of our moral obligation in a way.
So how do we do this? How do we abide by our moral obligation to help keep our youth healthy? We teach them. We talk to them and with them. We learn together–no matter how much you already know–that an apple (classic example so please substitute this with any other fruit, vegetable, etc.) is healthier than the Skittles and we learn why that is as well. We learn that we can add peanut butter to the apple slices and maybe a dash of cinnamon and we have a delicious treat. We make our own granola bars or we get really smart about what bars we bring into the home. We strive to make at least one recipe a week with our children to teach them the importance of preparing our own meals, and we have fun while doing it. We model what we preach. We walk our talk. We don’t grab the cookies when we walk in the door. We don’t buy the potato chips but then tell our kids that they can’t have any…they’ll just have some when you’re not looking. We need to be great, not just good, at role modeling what we want our kids to do or not do. And lastly, we need to build on what our kids are learning about in school when it comes to food and nutrition. There are some great programs and articles for kids out there that do a great job about teaching our children the importance of eating healthily and limiting the junk food, but all of these articles and nutrition programs have very little effect if these conversations and new ideas are not continued and fostered at home. Let’s change that!
Let’s make healthy fun. Let’s make “exercise” fun (maybe without even saying the word exercise!). Let’s make food fun and engaging and something we can all look forward to learning about together.
So get going. Go have some fun with the kiddo(s) in your life!
PS: That’s me in the picture above with my niece. This was taken a few years ago so she was either 6 or 7. You may be thinking, “How is she ‘moving’ if she’s on your shoulders?” She’s on my shoulders because she and I “ran” the entire first mile off and on and had a blast while doing it. She would sprint. I would chase her. She would chase me. We ran in circles. We pet dogs. We had so much fun and I put her on my shoulders to pose for this picture, but we continued running off and on for the next mile. She didn’t want to complete the 5k and there was no harm in that!