As a parent or guardian, are you aware of how many hours your children should be spending on physical activity? One of the hardest things to do might is getting children to get up and be active, especially during cooler temperatures. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (one hour) or more of physical activity each day. Are you helping your children meet these numbers?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), American Indians have the highest rate of diabetes in the world. In less than eight decades, obesity and diabetes have gone from a rare occurrence to an epidemic for the Native American population in the United States.
Hispanics and Native Americans comprise the largest segment of obese children in Arizona. Pima Indians have over 20 times the rate of new cases of kidney failure as the general U.S. population, and diabetes is the culprit more than 90 percent of the time. Furthermore, kidney disease is the leading cause of death from disease among Pima Indians who have diabetes.
“Members are under the mindset that diabetes is inevitable because they see a high percentage of our people diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, but with a few changes, becoming active and making healthy nutritional choices, they can live a life without Diabetes,” said Michelle Long, SRPMIC Physical Fitness Specialist. “Our Diabetes Educator, Maggie Fisher, has started a youth group for Community youth who are at high risk of developing Diabetes. The parents are also asked to participate to lead by example.”
Every day we may see children running or playing at the playground. This might not seem like much physical activity, but, according to KidsHealth, climbing to the top of a slide or swinging from the monkey bars can help lead kids to a lifetime of being active.
“When it comes to kids, it’s not so much exercise, it’s more along the lines of what’s mentally engaging; like sports and different things like that. They enjoying doing those things when it doesn’t feel like a chore to them. I think most people associate working out with hard work and sweating, stuff that’s not enjoyable. The kids should be able to [look at being active] as something they look forward to and something that’s a highlight of the week,” said Braxton Ehle, SRPMIC Physical Fitness Specialist.
The Health Benefits of Physical Activity
Like adults, when kids are active their bodies can do the things they want and need them to do. Finding the right sport, exercise or game can help children maintain a healthy weight and keep them functioning at their best. The health benefits of activity include:
• Strong muscles and bones
• Weight control
• Decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
• Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers
• Better sleep and alertness
• A better outlook on life
• Academic motivation and success
• Improved mental health and mood
• Higher self-esteem
• Longer life
“You build good habits from a young age, which makes it easier down the road. Diet also comes into play, once you get the kids to understand that they should eat the right things they can feel it in their body,” said Ehle.
Three Keys to Help Keep Kids Active
According to KidsHealth, three keys to helping your kids stay active are:
• Choosing the right activities for a child’s age. If you don’t, the child may be bored or frustrated.
• Giving kids plenty of opportunity to be active. Kids need parents to make activity easy by providing equipment and taking them to playgrounds and other activity spots, like skateboard parks or rock-climbing walls.
• Keeping the focus on fun. Kids won’t do something they don’t enjoy.
“Anybody under the age of 16 shouldn’t be working out with any type of resistance or weights. They should only be using body weight,” said Ehle.
Like us, children prefer activities that they enjoy, and they are motivated when their effort is noticed and praised. This will make them want to continue to be physically active.
KidsHealth recommends the following age-based activities for kids:
• Preschoolers: Preschoolers need play and exercise that helps them continue to develop important motor skills: kicking or throwing a ball, playing tag or follow the leader, hopping on one foot, riding a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels, freeze dancing, or running obstacle courses.
Preschoolers can’t understand complex rules and often lack the attention span, skills and coordination needed to play sports. Instead of learning to play a sport, they should work on fundamental skills.
• School-Age Kids: Children in this age group spend a lot of time on sedentary pursuits like watching TV and playing computer games, so the challenge for parents is to help them find physical activities they enjoy and feel successful doing. These can range from traditional sports like baseball and basketball to martial arts, biking, hiking and playing outside.
As kids learn basic skills and simple rules in the early school years, there might only be a few athletic standouts. As kids get older, differences in ability and personality become more apparent. Commitment and interest level often go along with ability, which is why it’s important to find an activity that’s right for your child. Schedules start getting busy during these years, but don’t forget to set aside some time for free play.
• Teenagers: Teens have many choices when it comes to being active, from school sports to after-school interests, such as yoga or skateboarding. It’s important to remember that physical activity must be planned and often has to be sandwiched between various responsibilities and commitments.
Do what you can to make it easy for your teen to exercise by providing transportation and the necessary gear or equipment (including workout clothes). In some cases, the right clothes and shoes might help a shy teen feel comfortable biking or going to the gym.
“Try to find a group exercise to get the kids to work out without even realizing it. Maybe have the kids play tag, throw the ball back and forth, jump rope, roller blade, bike riding or maybe even let them try out sports like karate or gymnastics,” said Ehle.
Don’t feel discouraged if it takes a few tries to help find your child’s favorite activity. Understanding the different activities and finding what’s right for you and your children will get you one step closer to being healthy. Remember to keep a positive attitude and always remember to encourage your children. Be active yourself and support your kids’ interests. If you start this early enough, they’ll come to regard activity as a normal—and fun—part of your family’s everyday routine.
“Physical activity can be as simple as walking 5 times a week and strength training twice a week. It doesn’t have to be hardcore…find something you love to do so you are motivated to stay active,” added Long.
Note: Children with health conditions should be cleared by a physician before beginning any type of physical activity.
For more information about physical activity programs for children, call the Salt River Recreation Department at (480) 362-6360, or call the Salt River Fitness Center at (480) 362-7320 for more information about keeping your child active.
31.2 percent of Native Americans ages 2 to 5 are obese
Obesity is the leading contributing factor to type 2 diabetes