“I didn’t know it as a kid, but all that hopscotch, kickball and chasing after boys during recess kept me active for 60 minutes a day. And that’s exactly what every kid needs to stay healthy. You’ll encourage yours to play more… the more you know.” – Alison Sweeney, The Biggest Loser and Days of Our Lives
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEADING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Eating healthy food and being physically active is not just something you do, it’s a lifestyle. Regular physical activity and adequate nutrition are important for overall health and wellbeing. Following a healthy diet and exercising gives you the energy you need to stay active, perform well and maintain a suitable weight. A healthy weight also lowers your risk for disease and health complications.
THE POWER OF BEING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Besides being enjoyable in and of itself, physical activity makes you feel good and has many health benefits for people of all ages. It increases your energy level and improves sleep quality so you can feel energized all day long. Through the release of endorphins and other hormones, exercise improves your mood and cognitive functioning, increases self-esteem and reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Regular exercise strengthens your bones and heart and burns more calories, which helps in maintaining a healthier body weight. Further, physical activity is one of nature’s best defenses against disease and illness, for it can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, cardio vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer. Those who stay active at older ages have lower incidences of osteoporosis and debilitating falls.
THE BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY DIET
In addition to exercising regularly, it is important to be aware of what you are putting into your body. When you treat your body right by following a nutritious diet, you feel better about yourself. An appropriate balance between the amount of energy you use in everyday activities and exercise and the amount of energy you take in promotes healthy weight and overall wellbeing. Plus, healthy foods contain many essential vitamins and minerals that may prevent diseases and illnesses such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis.
WHY A HEALTHY DIET IS IMPORTANT FOR CHILDREN
A healthy diet is crucial for a child’s growth and development. Proper nutrition provides essential vitamins and minerals that promote health and lower the risk of disease. To ensure that children reach their fullest potential, they need to establish healthy diets at a young age, for eating patterns created during childhood are often carried into adulthood.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY IN AMERICA
The rate of childhood obesity has continued to rise over the past two decades, and today about one in three children aged 2 to 19 are overweight or obese. Obese children are at greater risk to develop health complications such as high cholesterol, heart disease, type two diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and abnormal glucose tolerance. In addition, obese children are at greater risk for social discrimination, which can lead to low self-esteem and hinder academic and social functioning. Obesity has an impact both in childhood and later in life; studies have shown that obese children and teens are more likely to be obese as adults.
WHAT YOU CAN DO…
It is important that people of all ages stay physically active at some level. Recommended amounts of exercise differ according to age group and ability, but doctors generally recommend at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise per week for adults and 60 minutes per day for kids. Examples of moderate physical activity include: brisk walking, jumping rope, swimming, biking at a casual pace and dancing. Examples of more vigorous physical activity include: jogging/running, swimming laps, cross country skiing, biking vigorously and engaging in competitive sports (basketball, track, soccer, football, etc.). Make exercise a family activity by going on a walk together after dinner, walking the dog, or celebrating an event with a hike or another form of physical activity. Break-up time on the TV and computer, tablets, and phones by suggesting your child does jumping jacks, dance, stretch, or jog in place. Try instituting a rule that there no sitting still during commercials!
CREATE A HEALTHY PLATE
The USDA “What’s on your plate?” program recommends that half of your plate is fruits and vegetables and the other half are grains and protein. Try to make at least half of your grains whole and vary your protein food choices. Make the switch to low-fat dairy products. Make fruits and vegetables more exciting by letting your child help shop for, clean and cut them.