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In the past 30 years, the number of adolescents (14-18 years old) with childhood obesity has doubled and the number of children (up to age 13) with childhood obesity has tripled. Childhood obesity increases the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis as an adult.
There are many causes of the sedentary lifestyle that now challenges the youth of today. These causes include physical education no longer present in school, the increased use of electronics including video games, computers, cell phones, etc., TV watching, not walking/biking to school, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and eating foods high in sugar and fat.
The main goal of developing an exercise program and healthy eating habits in childhood is to help kids gain an appreciation for the value of taking care of oneself as well as living a healthy lifestyle that will last into adulthood.
Tips for creating a fitness program for children/adolescents
* The exercise goals for a kids’ fitness program are different than those for adults. In order for a child/adolescent to stick with an exercise program, it is important to make the exercise fun and positive. Additionally, kids are interested in making friends and learning skills. If kids experience success and gain confidence in their physical abilities, then they will feel good about themselves.
* Kids mature at different rates, they are still growing, and many children/adolescents are doing physical activities for the first time; all which should be considered when planning a fitness program.
* Play is a very important part of fitness for kids. Without play, a kid will likely quit the physical activity. Furthermore, variety is important to ensure adhering to an exercise program. Children/adolescents will get bored of a repetitive routine and should be exposed to a wide variety of sports and activities.
* 60 minutes per day of exercise is ideal for kids. This 60 minutes should be broken up throughout the day and can include recess, sports, walking/biking to and from school, recreational activities, chores, and playing on the playground. For a very inactive child/adolescent, increase activity 10% per week to reach a goal of 60 minutes per day.
* It is important to incorporate games that include fundamental movements such as skipping, hopping, throwing, kicking etc. in order to create a base of movement for other sports and activities. These skills also ensure that a child/adolescent is moving his/her body safely and reduces embarrassment or failure in the future if they are unable to perform basic movements.
* A fitness program for children/adolescents should incorporate a warm up and cool down, aerobics, strength training, and stretching. Cardiovascular exercise (with breaks) should be made up of skipping, jumping, etc. and using balls, hoops etc. Muscular strength and endurance exercises are now considered safe and effective for kids who are emotionally mature enough and can improve body composition, but should not be performed two days in a row.
* It is important for kids to stay hydrated while exercising. Aim to drink water every 15-20 minutes during physical activity.
There is a lot that can be done to make a big difference in preventing childhood obesity and future health problems. We have already seen that gym memberships have increased over 50% for kids who are 6-17 years old. Not only is exercise and fitness beneficial in preventing and treating childhood obesity, but it also lowers body fat, strengthens bones, builds muscle, improves physical/sports performance, improves well-being and self esteem, and enhances academic performance!
I will see you at your next workout!
Look Younger. Feel Stronger. Live Longer.
Aaron Wright, CSCS, AHFS, CPT, creator of the Wright Now Fitness System, a comprehensive DVD and digital exercise system “for everyone”, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, an ACE advanced health and fitness specialist, ACE certified personal trainer, orthopedic exercise specialist, functional training specialist, sports conditioning specialist, therapeutic exercise specialist, exercise programming expert, and health and wellness speaker.
Please visit us at http://www.wrightnowfitness.com for more information on our DVD and digital download/instant streaming workouts and more tips and advice on the benefits of diet and exercise to prevent childhood obesity.
NOTE: Always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
1. Faigenbaum, Avery D. (2012). Youth In Ace Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist Manual (pp. 552-572) United States of America: American Council on Exercise (ACE).