By now you may have heard that New York Mayor Bloomberg has tried to pass a ban on sodas over 16 ounces. He says he has new data tying sugary drinks to the city’s fattest neighborhoods.
Instead, why don’t we educate the public on how to make better food and drink choices and develop programs to promote health and activities? The NFL launched NFL PLAY 60, a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.

In the United States today, childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. Rather than reiterating the same statistics that you read in every article about this topic, we’d like to address the ways in which we can affect change in the lives of our children and grandchildren before they are faced with the inevitable health issues that will likely result from poor nutritional and fitness habits.

If your child is already overweight and is inactive, the first step is to make the necessary changes to his or her diet. Then, it’s a matter of inspiring little Bobby or Suzy to get moving. With regard to the latter, I’d like to correct a common misconception regarding strength training for kids. Many parents believe that children should wait until the age of 12 to begin any strength training program because implementing a program at a younger age will stunt their child’s growth. The truth is that there is simply is no evidence
to support this statement.

In fact, all of the major fitness and medical organizations in the U.S. recommend strength training for youth, because basic guidelines are adhered to and appropriate leadership is present. Children can begin to train with weights as soon as they are able to accept and follow directions – typically around the age of 8 or 10.
The benefits of youth strength training are similar to those for adults, including an improved attitude toward lifelong activity. Improvements in muscular fitness, bone mineral density, body composition, motor fitness performance and injury resistance are compelling evidence for all parents. To keep your child motivated, present ideas that support their efforts like self-improvement and individual success. But no matter what, make sure that your child is having fun!

Another compelling argument for youth strength-training programs is that significant improvements have been seen in self-esteem, mental discipline and socialization. Weight training provides an opportunity to let children who typically struggle with group activities stand out from their classmates and perform well on an individual basis. Overweight and obese children tend to have great muscular strength and tend to excel in that area.

What a tremendous way to boost self-esteem in the children who need it most!

How do you get started? Listen very closely to your child’s concerns and address them with care. Kids love to learn new things, so working with medicine balls, resistance bands, free weights and machines is a great idea and can be lots of fun!

Finally, remember that your goals when exercising with children are simple: Safety, fun and learning to love being physically fit!

As far as nutrition goes, relax parents. Once you get Bobby & Suzy moving, the food thing will come. Who shops? If the answer is you, the adult, then it’s up to you to offer your child better choices. If nutritionally unsound food choices aren’t available, your child can’t eat it. If you kid yourself that you’re buying Coco
Puffs for Bobby or Suzy, but really it’s you that want the sugary cereal, then we have a different issue on our hands altogether.

Instead of going crazy and cutting out all those treats that your child loves all at once, start out slowly. Little consistent changes will not be met with as much resistance. Make a family decision to improve on the types and amount of food you’re buying and preparing. Healthy choices can be convenient too, you
just have to make the decision to improve yours and your families’ nutrition and stay committed to that decision.

Bring the family back together. Family meals are a comforting ritual for both parents and kids. Children like the predictability of family meals and parents get a chance to catch up with their kids.
Kids who take part in regular family meals are also more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains and less likely to snack on unhealthy foods. In addition, family meals offer the chance to introduce kids to new foods and to act as a role model for healthy eating.

In closing, let’s educate ourselves on the pitfalls of making poor food and drink choices so the government doesn’t have to ban them. Let’s make exercise exciting and fun again. Set a good example for your children by starting with your own health and fitness.