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Our Children's Body Image--A Reflection of Our Own?


By Jazzercise, Inc.

(CARLSBAD, CA) -- Our society's obsession with appearance fuels a preoccupation with weight that runs rampant among American women from adolescence through and on past menopause, according to research conducted at the Mepomene Institute for Women's Health Research in St. Paul, Minn.

Recent studies confirm the link between adult perceptions and behavior and those of our children. A survey of 314 nine and 10-year-old girls found popularity is strongly tied to weight. Likewise, parents who dieted to get or stay slim were more likely to urge their children to do the same if they perceived them to be overweight.

As with dieting, body image is a prominent issue in fitness. It keeps many people, including children, from participating in exercise or sports, while driving others to do too much. How do we achieve a healthier balance, for ourselves and our children, when it comes to exercise and diet? "Parents need to reevaluate their approach," says Judi Sheppard Missett, founder and CEO of Jazzercise. "Rather than using these elements as a means to look better, we need to view them as a means to live better."

Our focus must shift from thin thighs and tight abs to increased energy, higher self-esteem and a greater sense of well being. In doing so, we open the door for everyone to participate in exercise, regardless of shape and size. And, we must adopt a fresh approach to food, viewing it as important fuel for our body rather than something to be feared for its potential to make us fat.

Psychologist James Rosen of the University of Vermont in Burlington, offers these strategies to improve body image:

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  • Don't bad-mouth your body. Focus on what you like about yourself and practice acceptance.
  • Learn to take a compliment. Be open to how others perceive you.
  • Don't focus on your physical flaws. Step back and take a good look at the whole package, including traits such as intelligence, friendliness and a good sense of humor.
  • Don't hide your body. This simply perpetuates a poor self-image. You can start your children on the right track by promoting postitive attitudes toward good nutrition and regular exercise.
  • Emphasize the fun and "feel good" benefits, rather than the issues of weight and appearance.

Helping your children find activities that they enjoy is an important element in establishing a healthy body image. No matter what activity you choose, staying flexible is key to injury prevention. Gather your kids for the following adductor stretch, which targets the large muscle group of the inside thigh.

Take a big step to one side and lunge onto your right leg. Make sure your knees and toes point forward as you lunge. Place your hands on your thigh and lean slightly forward from the hips, allowing your hips to release behind you. You should feel a stretch along the inside of your left leg. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds as you breathe naturally. Straighten up and reverse the movements to the other side, repeating two to three more times as desired.

© Jazzercise, Inc., 1999-present
Jazzercise is the world's largest fitness program with 5,000+ instructors teaching more than 19,000 classes weekly to 450,000 students in 38 countries around the globe. For more information or worldwide class locations, go to jazzercise.com or call 1(800)FIT-IS-IT - Courtesy of Jazzercise, Inc. - jazzercise.com.

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