Have you seen this internet meme floating around lately? “The day that children stopped asking their neighbors for odd chores to do so they could make some money was the day that homes started having PlayStations, XBOX systems, and Nintendo games.”
The idea is simple: kids today are lazier than before. Progress the logic and lazy kids have a higher risk of suffering from childhood obesity. Recent studies suggest that as many as 1 out of every 3 kids in the United States is overweight.
Getting kids up and exercising is the most common solution that is suggested to stop childhood obesity. Campaigns like the NFL’s “Play 60” or games like Pokémon Go are often touted as success stories because they keep kids active.
Exercise is important, but it isn’t the only possible solution to childhood obesity that exists. Here are some additional ideas that are worth considering.
1. Embrace healthy eating habits.
Fast food meals should be considered more of a treat than part of a family’s normal lifestyle. We live busy lives these days and there may not be time or energy to prep a full meal at home. Look for healthy alternatives at the grocery store which can create healthy meals in just a few minutes. Sliced vegetables, lean meats, and starches like potatoes are packed together so you can just put them into a pan and cook them in 15 minutes or less.
2. Encourage more water consumption.
Kids don’t really like to drink water. Some are so stubborn that they’ll only drink it when they’re extremely thirsty and there is no other option available. If we limit juices and sodas because of their high sugar content and suggest flavored waters instead, the number of caloric savings could be as much as 150 calories for every 12 ounces of fluid consumed.
3. Lead by example.
Children tend to follow the lead of the adults in their lives. If adults are unwilling to embrace healthy living habits, then kids are less likely to do so as well. Adults need to practice what they preach when it comes to taking care of themselves. When parents take steps to stay active and eat in healthy ways, the kids will do so as well.
4. Get involved in local sports programs.
For some children who struggle to get active, consider enrolling them into a local sports program. Many parks and recreation departments in the United States sponsor or run leagues for sports like volleyball, softball, and swimming events. Little League, basketball programs, football programs, and hockey programs give kids a chance to play organized events all year long. For those kids who may not be a fan of game-related sports, martial arts are always a way to stay active as well.
5. Make it fun to be active.
Adults typically need to have a highly structured exercise regimen in order to stay physically fit on a consistent basis. When kids have a highly structured program, they tend to lose interest very quickly. Keeping activities safe, but somewhat unstructured, can allow a child to stay focused on the activity.
6. Create a home obstacle course.
Throwing the kids out into the backyard is an ineffective way to encourage exercise. Kids don’t mind imaginative play, but an empty backyard compared to a PlayStation 4 will never be tempting. Creating an activity in the backyard, such as an obstacle course, can help kids to embrace the competitiveness that’s inside of them. Even if they are playing on their own, kids tend to try to beat their best times or improve their skills in other ways when there is an actual activity to complete.
There are numerous natural trails that are within minutes of your community. You could also pack the kids into the car or van and visit a new community. Walk their downtown area and explore kid-friendly shops. Grab a treat while you explore for added fun.
8. Replace sugared foods with healthier alternatives.
Instead of having a doughnut for breakfast, consider offering a bowl of fiber cereal with some honey or agave on it. Instead of eating cookies after school, offer fruits, vegetables, or even seeds to help cure a hunger craving. Junk food is fine when it’s an occasional treat. Kids are always going to want it. You need to have the willpower to say “No” and then supply an alternative.
The solutions to childhood obesity often come down to encouraging kids to play and eat healthy. That starts when the adults in their lives can do the same thing. Start making positive changes today and you might just find the kids in your life will do the same thing.