SAN DIEGO - Warning: Too much TV-watching can be hazardous to your child's health! According to a recent study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the more television children watch, the greater the odds are that they will be sedentary and overweight. The study, queried more than 4,000 children ages 8 to 16 about their exercise habits and was spearheaded by Ross Andersen, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and board member of the American Council on Exercise (ACE). The end result? While approximately 80 percent of the youngsters play or exercise at least three times a week, television prevails among black and Hispanic children. Andersen reports that children who watch the most television are significantly more overweight than those who watch little television. Moreover, boys and girls who report low levels of physical activity and high levels of television watching tended to be the heaviest children.
Video games and personal computers also contribute to this sedentary trend, says ACE's executive director Sherly Marks Brown. "If your kids have been transfixed by the TV or other electronic gadgetry all winter, help motivate them to move," he says.
The results of Dr. Andersen’s study suggest that parents need to reduce sedentary activities while promoting an active lifestyle. "Physically active children have a stronger self-image and more self-confidence, increased energy and fewer chronic health problems, so ACE recommends encouraging regular exercise when your kids are still young," says Marks Brown.
To get your children physically active on a regular basis, Marks Brown recommends the following:
- Don’t just tell your kids that exercise is fun, show them! Get off the couch and go biking, rock climbing or in-line skating with your kids. Skip rope or shoot baskets with them.
- Invite your kids to participate in vigorous household tasks such as tending the garden, washing the car or raking leaves. Demonstrate the value of these chores as quality physical activity.
- Plan outings and activities that involve some walking, like a trip to the zoo or a nature trail hike - even a trip to the mall.
- Set an example for your kids and treat exercise as something that should be done on a regular basis – like brushing your teeth or cleaning your room.
- Create a reward system to motivate your kids to move. For example, add a dollar or two to their weekly allowance for doing some kind of physical activity at least three days out of the week. Or recognize their fitness habits with a soccer ball, jump rope or even in-line skates – anything that will keep the moving.
- Concentrate on the positive aspects of exercise. It can be a chance for the family to have fun together. Avoid competition, discipline and embarrassment – these can turn good times into bad times. Praise your children for trying and doing.
- Keep in mind that kids are not always naturally limber. Their muscles may be tight and vulnerable to injury during growth spurts that occur during the elementary years. Be sure to include stretching as part of their fitness activities.
- Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Instead of high-calorie foods and snacks, turn your kids on to fruits and low- or non-fat foods.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its children’s programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.