We know that the right home environment can lay a strong foundation for health and fitness. Help your clients improve their kids’ health with these suggestions from IDEA member Jennifer Salter, director of Lifeline Personal Training in Toronto:
- Be the example. It is no surprise that the adult obesity epidemic has spawned a childhood obesity epidemic. Children do more than follow our explicit instructions; they also mimic our behavior. If parents make healthy lifestyle choices, children learn that these choices are normal and desirable. Good modeling should start when children are very young, before the oppositional behavior of adolescence emerges.
- Use behavioral programs to encourage exercise. Let children earn check marks for participating in gym class or extracurricular sports activities, or even for walking or biking to and from school. Make sure rewards are determined through a collaborative decision-making process so the child’s “buy-in” is guaranteed. Moreover, make certain the child earns the identified rewards only by accumulating check marks for exercise-related behavior. Parents may need to work with the child’s teacher to ensure that honesty prevails.
- Limit computer/video game use. Permissive parenting has led to a generation of children with limitless access to computer and video games. Long periods of video game play are bad for a child’s body and cognitive development, and they steal time away from more important tasks like homework and exercise. Just say no.
- Manage stress. Make sure children are not struggling academically or socially. If they are, access help immediately to minimize their chances of developing a mental health problem like anxiety, depression or an eating disorder. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children has a diagnosable mental health condition, which, in addition to being a serious issue in its own right, can lead to unhealthy behaviors that persist into adulthood.
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