By Dr. Paul G. Donohue
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have three children, a boy 13, a girl 10 and a boy 7. None of them is interested in sports, and none is particularly gifted when it comes to athletics. I want them to be active. Their school doesn’t offer any physical-education programs, but it does have sports teams. I read plenty of information on what adults are supposed to be doing when it comes to exercise but nothing that I can use for my kids. Do you have any suggestions? — D.D. A: It is important for children to stay active. We face an obesity epidemic, and the seeds of obesity are sown in childhood, with inactivity being one of those seeds. Physical activity begun early in life becomes habitual and stays with children into adulthood. It’s a peculiar fact that many children younger than 11 are naturally quite active, but from 11 to 15, physical activity wanes.
Parents should limit the time children spend in front of a TV and computer screens to two hours or less a day. Computer schoolwork is exempted from this restriction. This ban on sitting and watching a screen for hours on end does more to promote activity than anything else.
Children from 6 on up should engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. The activity must be age-related, and age dictates the intensity of the exercise. The exercise can be broken into 15-minute segments. Moderate physical activity gets kids breathing faster and their hearts beating faster. Walking, skipping and light jogging are examples. Vigorous physical activity gets them breathing even faster and their hearts beating faster. The exercise shouldn’t be exhausting or leave them breathless. Rope jumping, swimming and running are vigorous exercises. Children also should engage in muscleand bone-building exercises, but I have to deal with those topics later.
You’ll be happy to learn that housework and yardwork qualify as exercise if they’re not done in a ho-hum way with lots and lots of breaks. The children have to keep moving, and they have to move with energy.
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c. North America Syndicate