Friday, December 13, 2013

Play An Active Role In Your Child’s School Fitness and Nutrition Programs

Are you concerned that your child’s school isn’t doing enough to keep the children active or offering healthy food choices? Well, now you can get involved and help initiate some changes. Everything has a catalyst or tipping point – who better than you to get things started? The Let’s Move coalition sponsored by Michelle Obama provides pointers and guides on how to contact your child’s school and organize a school health team.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Just Because It’s Winter Doesn’t Mean The Activities Have To Stop!

Don’t let the rainy cold weather be an excuse to let your preschooler veg in front of the TV this winter. There are some great indoor activities ideas including this one: Create Your Own Indoor Obstacle Course.  They offer lots of fun for several children at a time to work out some of that active energy!

If you really want to keep the kids busy for hours, have them set up a fake laser security system. Take bright colored string and tie it between objects in diagonal, vertical, and horizontal directions. The kids then try to move from one room to the next without touching the strings. Whoever gets to the end without being ‘zapped’ wins (for an extra challenge, use different colored strings and travel between the same colored strings, i.e., only step between the red strings and not the green strings).

Another fun outdoor activity that has been converted to play safely indoors is Red Light, Green Light. Have your child stand at least 20 feet away from you and yell out green light for them to go and red light for them to stop. Instead of having your child run in the house, they can skip, hop, or crawl towards you. 

But I think my favorite of all is Copy Dancing. Your child creates the dance moves – and you copy them! Kids love to be the leaders and this is a good way to get both of you moving while having lots of fun. At the end, crank up the music and have a free dance moment. Get an older child to videotape and share with friends and family!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Keeping Your Pre-schooler Active

Much has been written over the past several years about childhood obesity and how this epidemic seems to be affecting children at younger and younger ages. Whether or not you are personally concerned if your child is heading in the wrong direction, making the right nutrition and fitness decisions while your child is young will have an impact on their health as an adult.  The children’s health and fitness website recently posted an article on the importance of keeping your preschooler active. It mentions reducing the number of hours your child sits in the front of the TV everyday and to encourage a more active and less static lifestyle. While this isn't ground breaking news - it is important to understand the impact of letting your kids at an early age habitually sit in front of the TV playing video games all day is not healthy.

There are great ideas for helping your pre-schooler get enough active time, even for busy families. One fun idea is ‘I Can Spell My Name Hopscotch’ or everyone’s favorite – tag! Freeze tag is a good variation of this game because it helps develop children’s motor and listening skills. As winter approaches and day light savings time has reduced the amount of ‘outside’ time kids have before dinner, some safe indoor activities include hula hoop and ‘Balloon Badminton’. These ideas are sure to get you and your child working up a sweat in no time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

September Is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month!

How tempting it is to have Cheeseburger Day in the same month as National Childhood Obesity Month? While it is ok to allow your children special occasion treats periodically (my 5 year old is on a 2 sweet per day limit when he asks for too much junk in one day), making sure your child also balances their diet with healthy fruits and vegetables is very important.  Too often I think we as parents look back on our childhood, and our waistline, saying your kids won't be able to eat what they want when they want when they grow older and their metabolism slows down so let's just allow them to eat all the junk food they want now before it's too late. The difference between most of our upbringings compared to our children's is we had lots of play time outside. So many parents discuss how they were able to play outside until the street lights came on. Nowadays - parents can't let their kids sit on front steps without full supervision.

This is why it is so important to make sure your kids are getting enough physical activity everyday! When they come home, plan a few minutes between dinner and homework to sneak in a few turns of the jump rope or play a little catch or see who can keep the hola hoop going the longest. These are even fun activities you can participate with the kids while being in doors. While you may not squeeze the full 30 minutes of recommended active time at this particular moment, it will create a new habit of being active in your home instead of just plopping in front of the television or playing video games. If you participate with your child, imagine the added benefits your own body will receive!

Visit the National Institute of Health's We Can!  website for more information on how to help keep your kids healthy and active.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Research links children's psychological problems to prolonged screen time

Study by Public Health England backs concerns raised by doctors that lack of exercise leads to unhealthy lifestyles

Study by Public Health England found that 70% of young people did not undertake the recommended daily hour of physical activity. Photograph Shout/Rex Features
Spending too much time in front of television, DVDs and computer games is taking its toll on children's physical and mental health, according to a government-commissioned report published on Wednesday.
Public Health England says there is evidence that children who spend more time watching screens tend to have higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.
The agency, which is using the data as the basis of a campaign to encourage families to adopt healthier behaviour, claims over 70% of young people did not undertake the recommended daily hour of physical activity.
The research echoes concerns raised by doctors last week that children's lack of exercise was leading to more unhealthy lifestyles. A third of 11-year-olds are now either overweight or obese.
The proportion of young people with a low estimation of their own wellbeing almost doubles from 14% to 24% between 11 and 15, according to the independent NatCen Social Research organisation, which presented new analysis of a broad set of data for the Department of Health.
Young people who spent less than one hour a day playing computer games were almost three times more likely to say they enjoyed good wellbeing as those who played four hours or more, according to the research.
Similarly those who shared an evening meal with their family on at least six days a week were more likely to be happy about their circumstances.
Government health leaders are using such evidence, only the latest in a growing library, to bolster their message that more physical activity will make children more likely to concentrate in school, enjoy better relationships with classmates and be less worried, anxious or depressed.
The latest report uses data from the Millenium Cohort study of children born in 2000 by the Institute of Education in London, and the UK Household Longitudinal Study, led by Essex University. It was commissioned by the Department of Health in England to inform public health policy and help its executive agency Public Health England (PHE)and local councils deliver the Change4Life programme, a key element in official attempts to "nudge" rather than dictate behavioural change in the population.
PHE is launching a new TV, smartphone and online campaign to encourage families to swap car or bus journeys for walking, scooting or cycling, build 10-minute slots of physical activity into at least an hour of physical exertion a day, limit screen time, swap unhealthy treats for healthy alternatives and eat more healthy lunches.
On one example, a mother is seen reaching into a cartoon-like doll's house to throw a pink animated figure out of bed, along with their pizza and crisps, and remove a blue figure from the couch in front of the TV. A voiceover says: "Summer holidays! Our kids thought they were great. But great for their health? I don't think so."
Kevin Fenton, PHE's director of health and wellbeing, said: "There are many complex factors that affect a child's wellbeing such as the wider environment they live in and their social, financial and family circumstances, but there are also some very simple things we can do to help improve their health and wellbeing."
Other evidence being cited by the PHE includes a recent Unicef report which put the UK 16th among 29 of the world's richest countries for children's wellbeing.
It said 62% of 11-year-olds, 71% of 13-year-olds and 68% of 15-year-olds reported watching more than two hours of TV every weekday, compared with Switzerland where the figure was less than 35% across all three age groups. In England, the proportion of young people playing computer games for two hours or more a night increased from 42% to 55% among boys and 14% to 20% among girls between 2006 and 2010, said the WHO's survey on health behaviour in school-aged children.
Lil Caprani, director of communication, policy and campaigns at the Children's Society, which recently found half a million children in the UK were "struggling with their lives", said: "We found a strong association with being active and being happy. Things like cycling, swimming or playing football all had a clear relationship, but simple things like just going for walks were associated with higher wellbeing."
The launch of the new campaign coincided with an announcement by broadcasting regulator Ofcom that it is to commission new research into whether children and young people under 18 are watching "potentially harmful" content after finding Channel Four broke broadcasting rules by airing a violent train death before the 9pm TV watershed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

CDC releases 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study results

School districts show positive trends
Infographic: Encouraging trends in nation’s school policies on nutrition, physical education/ physical activity, and tobacco 
Infographic: "Encouraging trends in nation’s school policies on nutrition, physical education/ physical activity, and tobacco"
Entire Infographic Adobe PDF file [322KB]
School districts nationwide are showing improvements in measures related to nutritional policies, physical education and tobacco policies, according to the 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS).  SHPPS is the largest and most comprehensive survey to assess school health policies.
"Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Good news for students and parents – more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free."

Key findings include:

  • The percentage of school districts that allowed soft drink companies to advertise soft drinks on school grounds decreased from 46.6 percent in 2006 to 33.5 percent in 2012.
  • Between 2006 and 2012, the percentage of districts that required schools to prohibit offering junk food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent to 43.4 percent.
  • Between 2006 and 2012, the percentage of districts with food procurement contracts that addressed nutritional standards for foods that can be purchased separately from the school breakfast or lunch increased from 55.1 percent to 73.5 percent.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of districts that made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students increased from 35.3 percent to 52.7 percent.
Physical education/physical activity:
  • The percentage of school districts that required elementary schools to teach physical education increased from 82.6 percent in 2000 to 93.6 percent in 2012.
  • More than half of school districts (61.6 percent) had a formal agreement, such as a memorandum of agreement or understanding, between the school district and another public or private entity for shared use of school or community property. Among those districts, more than half had agreements with a local youth organization (e.g., the YMCA, Boys or Girls Clubs, or the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts) or a local parks or recreation department.
  • The percentage of districts with policies that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.
SHPPS is a national survey periodically conducted to assess school health policies and practices at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. SHPPS assesses the characteristics of eight components of school health: health education, physical education and activity, health services, mental health and social services, nutrition services, healthy and safe school environment, faculty and staff health promotion, and family and community involvement.
SHPPS was conducted at all levels in 1994, 2000, and 2006. The 2012 study collected data at the state and district levels only.  The school- and classroom-level data from SHPPS will be collected in 2014 and released in 2015.
For more information, go to