Back to school fitness tips: more play, less TV

Marilynn Preston

With summer vacation ending, it’s time for parents to focus on what their children need to return to their daily school routines. New clothes? New shoes? New supplies? What else do they need? A fitness evaluation would be nice.

Whether you do the evaluation yourself or get help from a professional, the start of the new school year is the perfect time to measure your child’s health and then start some new routines in your house to help her feel better, eat smarter and have more energy.

Don’t fool yourself. Begin with an honest assessment of where your kid is at now. How much physical activity does she get in a day? In a week? Is your child strong? Flexible? Flabby? Fidgety? Do your kids eat a healthy mix of low-fat, high-energy foods? How much TV do they watch? Do they have enough energy to do what they want to do, or do they get tired, moody, depressed?

Let’s focus on what you can do starting now, just as the new school year begins to help your kids get in shape.

Make it fun. How can you get your kids to move more? Fun and pleasure are the key ingredients. For parents, it may be about winning, but for kids to participate in sports and that should be a goal of every parent they need to enjoy the activity.

Be active yourself. Active adults are great role models for kids. If you want your kids to live a healthier lifestyle, get your own act in gear. Make fitness a priority in your home and in your life.

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Don’t let them diet. You can’t nag, chide or humiliate youngsters into losing weight. Instead, be gentle and firm about helping them develop better eating habits. Don’t let them skip meals (especially breakfast) or deprive themselves of favorite foods.

Stress the variety of foods they can eat in moderation; don’t focus on “bad foods” they can’t eat. And never, ever let your kid go on a diet. Depriving kids of food can make them anxious and neurotic about eating for years to come.

Decrease TV time, increase play time. Kids are used to getting new schedules when the school year starts, so now is the perfect time to make new rules in your house.

Limit TV. Increase play. Play is good; TV makes you fat. Less time in front of the TV means more time to ride bikes, play ball, skate, walk, etc.

Snack smart. Kids should be encouraged to snack. It’s a great way to refuel and keep their energy up. But make sure your child’s snacks are healthy ones: pretzels, nuts, fresh or dried fruit, graham crackers, cereal, yogurt, etc. Cookies and chips are OK on occasion, but not every day.