Keep your kids off the couch this summer

They'll do better in school and be happy and fit

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These days kids hardly get any activity. Most schoolwork involves sedentary activity and with television and video games as after-school pastimes, the temptation to sink into couch potato-land becomes pretty overwhelming for our kids. Check out these startling stats:

o Children today are approximately 40% less active than they were 30 years ago

o 40% of children and teens are overweight enough to threaten their future health

o 40% of children already have at least one risk factor for heart disease and reduced fitness due to an inactive lifestyle

o Children spend an average of 26 hours a week watching television and also spend 25-30 hours a week sitting behind a desk

But as the school year winds down, parents can plan ahead to ensure kids get lots of activity this summer.

Here’s some goals you should strive for. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for exercise and children are as follows:

o Children should be involved in daily physical activity like walking or cycling around the neighborhood, performing household chores or running errands

o Children should exercise three times a week for at least 20 minutes with activities that require moderate to vigorous levels of exertion, like brisk walking, stair-climbing, racquet sports, jogging, dance, swimming laps, skating, cross-country skiing or cycling.

o For most children, it’s fine to do 15-20 minutes of resistance or strength training sessions twice a week using higher repetitions (25 reps) and lower resistance as long as there’s proper instruction and supervision

o Children should stretch on alternative days for 60 seconds each stretch

o Vary the activities to work different parts of the body

o Involve children in deciding which activities to do

Kids who exercise can experience the following benefits:

o Daily physical activity builds a healthy heart and stimulates muscle and bone growth

o Healthy, fit kids have more energy, sleep better and often have better eating habits than their sedentary peers

o One six year study found that the academic performance of students who exercised regularly had significantly improved compared to students who did not participate in regular physical activity

o It appears that children benefit from better concentration, memory, creativity, problem-solving ability and overall mood for up to two hours following exercise

o One report states that exercise can boost a child’s self-confidence and self-image. It also reduces aggression and decreases anxiety and depression.

I’m on a mission to help improve the health and fitness of our kids in Clark County. Stay tuned next week for my strong opinion on the epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes in Kids. After that I’m going to start a series for Parents and Kids to keep you both healthy over the summer as the kids get out of school. Out of school doesn’t have to mean out of shape! Here’s to looking and feeling your best this summer!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 20 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson. Follow on Facebook for regular health and fitness inspiration. Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started. Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.