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How can I Help my Child get into Shape?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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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.

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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.

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anon135630
Post 5

I think my problem is sort of different. My son plays table tennis five times a week. I don't know what is going on, but he is overweight, not obese. My husband too.

Due to our lifestyle I also gained weight. My youngest is in better shape, maybe because soccer burns more calories. I want my son to me a little competitive so he would take care of himself and maybe get more confidence to play harder and then get better results when playing table tennis.

I don't know what else I can do. I go to the gym but he doesn't want to come with me. I think you can only get results if you set your mind to it. I don't know how to make my son realize he is not on a healthy direction.

davis22
Post 4

One very important thing that the article touched on is sedentary activities. Kids sit around and play video games and eat junk food more than ever these days. There is a reason that child obesity rates are the highest they’ve ever been. When kids don’t go outside and do physical activities it hurts their social abilities as well as their physical nutrition. By engaging in sports or other group activities, children learn how to communicate and work with others in tense situations. This is extremely important for kids. That said, I would discourage a sedentary, indoors lifestyle as much as possible. Though, kids do love electronic entertainment and other indoor activities. I think the article is correct in suggesting that finding the right balance is key.

astor
Post 3

@ kilorenz – about a year and a half ago, I got into biking as a regular form of exercise. It was hard for me to keep up a running routine. I just hated it really, and it made my knees sore all the time. I got a cheap road bike, and started biking around as much as I could. I’m in better shape now than I was when I tried to go running a few times a week. The best part about it is that I don’t even think of it as working out. Going on a bike ride is a pleasurable activity for me, so I feel like working myself hard even though I am sometimes. Anyway, your recommendation is a good one, and I second it.

kilorenz
Post 2

@D.W. Bales - I would recommend bicycling for your child’s spouse. I have found that a lot of people enjoy this form of exercise more than others for a number of reasons. First of all, it can be as difficult or as mild of a form of a workout as a person wants it to be. You could go 15-20 miles in a high gear and be certain that it’ll be a taxing but doable workout. Second, you get to be outside and that’s always fun, especially if you can bike in a particularly nice area. Perhaps the best thing about biking however, is that is a low or no impact activity. That means you won’t be doing damage

to your joints or muscles. The only way to hurt oneself on a bike is, of course, to get in a crash or fall of it. Anyway, I would recommend this to your child’s spouse. I know many people that have become enthusiastic about keeping in or getting in shape once they got into biking, and their results have been nothing but good. Good Luck!
anon90055
Post 1

Example, example, example. All four of our children, born 1950, 1953, 1955 and 1958 are all in great shape and motivated to stay that way. One of their spouses is way overweight, but tries to swim regularly. The other three are just fine.

D.W. Bales, M.D., retired internist

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