May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, as declared by the President, and although it seems like kids and physical fitness go hand and hand it is not the case here in the United States.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention declares, “During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States … obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation ago." Programs like First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution only help spotlight this epidemic. But, like many things I write about, this too starts at home. Physical fitness and healthy eating are lifestyle choices that parents teach their children, schools reinforce and society helps maintain.
Being active with your children starts with their key role model: You. When children see their own parents being physically active, they are more likely to join in -- if only to spend some quality time with Mom and Dad. Parents have the ability to shape their child’s opinion of exercise at a very young age, whether it is taking nightly walks around the neighborhood, playing soccer in the backyard or local playground or just turning off the TV and playing hide and seek in the house. Being active is as straight forward as gardening, walking to the store instead of driving and taking a bike ride. No expensive equipment needed -- just time with you, a friend or even themselves.
When kids get to school, physical activity can become a huge part of their lives in team sports. So much research has been done about the benefits of team sports. Kids learn to respect their teammates, their coach and the people behind the scenes. They learn the value of practice and persistence and, sometimes, they even get a lifelong mentor in a coach. Even if your child isn’t starting in every game, they are still practicing with the team and learning all of the amazing lessons team sports offer, along with getting excellent exercise. My children started playing soccer last year at ages 2-and-a-half and 4-and-a-half, and while still very young, they definitely loved the structure, drills and the awesome yellow team jerseys. They begged to do it again this spring and are two practices into their season and loving it.
So now the kicker: Your kids have great role models at home, their school is on board with healthy school lunch options and team sports, but society is letting them down by not completing the healthy lifestyle circle.
I am not talking about ridding the world of chocolate, but I am wondering why we need so much pure junk lining the shelves of our supermarkets, enticing our children and whispering in the ears of those trying so hard to eat healthy. This is a whole other article topic, but maybe if we all stop buying it they will stop making it.
That is my small part for now. I started by choosing healthy options for the items we eat the most. I went organic with my most popular foods. Then came the community supported agriculture farm share. And then came juicing.
I looked for parks, bike paths, hiking trails and exercise classes to help me decide which community would best support a lifestyle of physical fitness. When we demand these things in our community, those that want to thrive will provide them. Luckily, our town is full of all of these wonderful amenities. Now, let's get them is all towns across the nation.
I think when we stop and look at how we can make physical fitness part of our lifestyle, we might be surprised at all the things we can do to foster this choice. Kids are naturally active and if we just jump into their games of tag, soccer and hide and seek, we might find that they want to play longer, more often and forget about the TV, junk food and video games. If only for a while.