There are myriad reasons to explain why kids are piling on the pounds. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada revealed that just seven percent of youth aged five to 17 meet the recommended amount of at least 60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Here’s what top childhood obesity experts recommend you do to keep your kids healthy and active:
Start early. Some elite athletes began shooting a puck, hitting a tennis ball or swinging a golf club as soon as they could walk. Even if your child isn’t destined to be a professional athlete, active kids are more likely to develop into active adults.
Exercise together. Parents shouldn’t sit on the sidelines. Instead, lead your family’s physical activities, especially when younger kids are involved. Try to make exercise a fun family event everyone will want to participate in, such as a backyard game of touch football, tag, or badminton.
Use consequences — and be consistent. If your teen agreed to limit screen time to two hours a day, but isn’t sticking to the deal, take away her cellphone, iPod, video games (whatever stings the most) to help send the message that your family’s healthy lifestyle plan isn’t up for negotiation.
Be patient. Most people have developed unhealthy habits over years or decades. Forming new ones takes time. Be patient and recognize it’s a lifelong process. And if you or your kids slip up, don’t feel bad — just get right back on track.
Kim Berenbaum, personal trainer, Calgary
Jon McGavock, researcher, Manitoba Institute of Child Health, Winnipeg
Sara Kirk, Canada Research Chair in Health Services Research at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, Halifax
Liann Meloff, psychologist, founder of Calgary’s Pediatric Weight Clinic, Calgary
Catherine Birken, co-director of the SickKids Team Obesity Management Program (STOMP)