By Jazzercise, Inc.
(CARLSBAD, CA) -- The statistics are startling and unsettling. An estimated 25 percent of American children are overweight. Only one in four gets 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. And the picture gets bleaker for girls. More than 25 percent of girls (as compared to 17 percent of boys) get less than 2 periods of vigorous activity a week.
Without effective intervention, America's youth will experience an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes as they age. The need to teach our children healthier lifestyle habits is clearly evident.
"By establishing physical activity as a lifestyle choice in their early years, " says Judi Sheppard Missett, founder and CEO of Jazzercise, "we provide our children with perhaps the most effective preventive medicine. "
Children learn by example, so the more active parents are, the more active their children will be. Here are some ideas to get the entire family moving:
Encourage a love of sports, both competitive and noncompetitive, and create opportunities for participation. This can be as simple as bicycling around town or joining a parks and recreation softball league.
Select a few activities everyone can do regardless of age, such as walking, and pick one or two days a week for a family outing. Take your infants along in bike carts and/or strollers, so they literally grow up with fitness as a natural part of their lives.
Set limits on television. Children have a natural tendency to be physically active, but nothing stifles that urge as quickly as the sedentary act of watching TV.
Look for new ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Walk to the library rather than taking the car. Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
Make walking the dog a group effort. Encourage your children to identify and suggest healthier alternatives as you maneuver through your day.
While children can be incredibly limber, it's important to instill a habit of stretching before
and after exercise. The following stretch targets the muscles that run down the back of the
thigh and lower leg, which are used extensively during walking and most other activities. You
can place your hands on your hips or on a chair, table or your own thigh for support. Extend one
leg to the side, and flex your foot. Bend your supporting knee slightly, and sit into the hip as
you lean toward your extended leg. You should feel a stretch from heel to hip. Hold for 10 to 20
seconds, then reverse the movements to stretch the opposite side. Repeat two to three times as
Be sure to use good posture, keeping your chest lifted and your abdominal muscles engaged to prevent your lower back from arching. Stop at the point where you feel mild tension, and hold there. Never stretch to the point of pain.
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