Physical Activity = Better Health

Pediatricians continue to be disturbed by the trends they’re seeing in the levels of physical activity of children, which appear to be headed in the wrong direction. One survey concluded that less than 25% of children in grades 4 through 12 participate in 20 minutes of vigorous activity or 30 minutes of any physical activity per day. Particularly with weight management as a goal, those numbers aren’t good enough.

Not only will regular physical activity help your child lose weight and maintain that weight loss, but it has many other benefits. For example, if your child exercises regularly, he’ll have

  • Stronger bones and joints
  • Greater muscle strength
  • A decrease in body fat
  • Improved flexibility
  • A healthier cardiovascular system (thus reducing his risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure)
  • A reduced likelihood of developing diabetes
  • More energy
  • A greater ability to handle stress
  • Improvements in self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Greater social acceptance by physically active peers
  • Opportunities to make new friends
  • Better concentration at school

Getting Started

You should have a clear picture of your child’s activity level—and whether he needs to change course. Is he watching too much TV? Is he spending too little time playing outdoors after school or on weekends?

As a parent, you need to help your overweight child get moving. To repeat, he should be doing some physical activity every day. In fact, it should become as routine a part of his life as brushing his teeth and sleeping.

So where should you begin? How much time does your child need to spend being active and how intense does this activity need to be?

The answers to these questions may be different for your child than it is for another boy or girl. If your overweight youngster has been completely sedentary, with no PE classes at school, no outdoor play, no extracurricular physical activities, and hours of TV watching every day, his starting point should be different than that of a fairly active youngster. There are plenty of activities that he can choose from, and he should begin to slowly and gradually pick up the pace.

Let’s say that your child decides to try getting his physical activity by taking walks or hikes with an older sibling through a nearby park. If he is really out of shape or if he has trouble imagining doing any walking at all, encourage him to set a goal of walking for only 1 minute at a time (“Can you walk for just 60 seconds?”). Once he realizes that 1 minute is an attainable target, have him increase his walking sessions progressively, to 2 minutes each time, then 3 minutes, and so on, until he’s walking for 30 minutes or more. If your youngster is already in better shape, he may want to start with a 15-minute walk and then increase it in 5-minute increments to 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and beyond. The ultimate goal is to have him spend an hour being active each day.

To most of us, a minute or two of walking doesn’t sound like much. In fact, many adolescents and adults think that exercise doesn’t really count unless it’s intense and even hurts (as the cliché goes, “No pain, no gain”). But for a child trying to lose weight, every little bit of activity helps, whether it’s a short walk to the school bus stop or a climb up a flight of stairs at school. Ultimately, once your child gets into better shape, you can encourage him to increase the duration and intensity of his activity, but the most important thing is that he just get moving and do it regularly.


Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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Summer Tips: Pool Safety

Swimming is a fantastic form of exercise and a major component of many spring break trips and summer break fun. But parents should remember that swimming also comes with risk. Follow these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to protecting children from drowning.

POOL SAFETY

  • Never leave children alone in or near the pool or spa, even for a moment; close supervision by a responsible adult is the best way to prevent drowning in children.
  • Whenever children under age 5 are in or around water, an adult – preferably one who knows how to swim and perform CPR – should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
  • Make sure pool gates open out from the pool, and self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach. Consider alarms on the gate to alert you when someone opens the gate. Consider surface wave or underwater alarms as an added layer of protection.
  • The safest fence is one that surrounds all 4 sides of the pool and completely separates the pool from the house and yard. If the house serves as the fourth side of the fence, install an alarm on the exit door to the yard and the pool. For additional protection, install window guards on windows facing the pool. Drowning victims have also used pet doors to gain access to pools. Keep all of your barriers and alarms in good repair with fresh batteries.
  • Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook ­– a long pole with a hook on the end — and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool. Choose a shepherd’s hook and other rescue equipment made of fiberglass or other materials that do not conduct electricity.
  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life jackets and can give children and parents a false sense of security.
  • Children over age 1 may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in babies younger than 1 year of age.
  • The decision to enroll a child over age one in swimming lessons should be made by the parent based on the child’s developmental readiness and exposure to water, but swim programs should never be seen as “drown proofing” a child of any age.
  • Avoid entrapment: Suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater. Do not use a pool or spa if there are broken or missing drain covers. Ask your pool operator if your pool or spa’s drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. If you have a swimming pool or spa, ask your pool service representative to update your drains and other suction fitting with anti-entrapment drain covers and other devices or systems. See PoolSafely.gov for more information on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
  • Large, inflatable, above-ground pools have become increasingly popular for backyard use. Children may fall in if they lean against the soft side of an inflatable pool. Although such pools are often exempt from local pool fencing requirements, it is essential that they be surrounded by an appropriate fence just as a permanent pool would be so that children cannot gain unsupervised access.
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active

Did You Know?

  • Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
  • Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
  • Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
  • About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
  • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Getting Started

Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active. Here are 11 ways to get started:

  1. Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appro­priate activities.
  4. Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  5. Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
  6. Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
  7. Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  8. Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
  9. Turn off the TV. Limit TV watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
  10. Make time for exercise. Some children are so overscheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
  11. Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. If your child’s weight drops below an average, acceptable level or if exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your child’s doctor.

Remember

Exercise along with a balanced diet provides the foundation for a healthy, active life. This is even more important for children who are obese. One of the most important things parents can do is encourage healthy habits in their children early on in life. It is not too late to start. Ask your child’s doctor about tools for healthy living today.


Source: Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 10/2015). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Permission to Unplug: The Health Benefits of Yoga for Kids

​​​Yoga offers a release from today’s fast-paced and tech-heavy world. It only demands that your child “unplug” and leave his or her phone (and shoes) behind—focusing solely on the action of connecting breath and movement. Yoga can help kids learn to live in the moment, focus on the task at hand, and handle problems peacefully. The more often your child practices yoga, the greater the benefits.

Yoga: More Than Exercise, More Than Sport

While any sport played well activates the mind in addition to the body, the practice of yoga is meant to bring the two together. Yoga is much more profound than merely the yoga postures we are familiar with from classes, videos, or movies. It involves a combination of certain postures (asanas), regulated breathing techniques (pranayamas), hand poses (mudras), and meditation (dhyanas).

Each particular body posture has been cultivated and fine-tuned over thousands of years to bring about specific effects in the mind and body. Whether a pose is done standing, sitting, or lying down, each one can challenge various muscle groups. At the same time, a child becomes more aware of his or her body and how it functions. Some yoga poses are harder than others, and even flexible kids in good shape should start slowly.

Many student-athletes practice yoga as a way to cross-train and prevent overuse injuries. Runners strengthen and stretch the hips, legs, and Achilles tendons. Baseball players strengthen the arms and upper body muscles. Gymnasts increase flexibility, balance, and concentration.

Health Benefits of Yoga

Children and teens are an ideal population to benefit from the therapeutic and health benefits of yoga.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for children coping with emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral health conditions.

Children with special needs, for example, often have tension and rigid muscle tone—yoga can help with this. Stretching the body can relieve tension and holding yoga poses increases strength when practiced regularly. Yoga also has many bending and stretching poses that can help move and stimulate the digestive system and relieve constipation. Additional physical benefits from yoga include:

  • Regulated blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Regulated hormone levels
  • Decreased abdominal pain in children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Improved balance​

A study in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that daily yoga helps children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remain calm and lowered their levels of aggression, social withdrawal, and anxiety. Further, a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that yoga during PE classes reduced teen mood problems and anxiety and also led to higher test scores. In numerous other studies, yoga has repeatedly been shown to improve:

  • Self-confidence
  • Mood
  • Stress reduction
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration
  • Hyperactivity
  • Classroom behaviors
  • Emotional balance

Parents: Calm Breathing Can Be Contagious!

It’s good for parents to put down their phones, too! Tantrums, sleepless nights, and morning rushing, for example, test our limits. In times like these, it can be very effective to take a few deep breaths instead of losing control of your own temper.

Basic yoga breathing and a simple pose or two can be important tools for managing a range of stresses and pain as well as everyday challenges. Lead by example. Get your child involved in yoga—or better yet—try a class yourself! Namaste.


Source: Section on Integrative Medicine (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Making Fitness a Way of Life

Some school-aged children can’t wait to get home from school, stake out a place on the couch, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening watching TV. Physical activity is just not on their radar screens, at least not by choice.

Stopping the Slippery Slope of Childhood Obesity
Not surprisingly, children who fit this profile may be on a slippery slope to a life of obesity. There are a lot of them. Several years ago, when a group of children 6 to 12 years old participated in programs of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, only 50% of girls and 64% of boys could walk or run a mile in less than 10 minutes. If that same study were conducted today, when the obesity epidemic seems to be gaining momentum, those statistics might be even more troubling.

Making Exercise Into a Lifelong Habit
During your child’s school-age years, your goal should be not only to get your child moving, but to turn exercise into a lifelong habit. There are plenty of opportunities for your child to keep active.

Getting Involved in Organized Sports
In most communities, children in this age group can choose to get involved in a number of organized sports, including:

  • Little League
  • Youth soccer
  • A martial arts class
  • Community basketball
  • Hockey
  • Football leagues

Team sports are fun and the perfect fit for many children, and they can help them manage their weight.

But, Sports Aren’t For Everyone…

However, group activities like these aren’t for everyone. Some obese children feel self-conscious about participating in team sports and are much more comfortable getting their exercise in unstructured settings. For them, free play on the playground, ice skating, in-line skating, bowling, or even running through sprinklers is good exercise.

Let your child choose something that he finds enjoyable, and once he discovers it, encourage him to make it a regular part of life. At the same time, limit TV watching or time spent on the computer or playing video games to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day. Studies have shown that the more time children devote to watching TV, the more likely they are to consume foods like pizza, salty snacks, and soda that contribute to weight gain.

If Your Child Insists He Doesn’t Want to Do Any Physical Activity
Explain that it’s important and might even be fun to find a new activity. Try to find activities that fit the family’s budget and time commitments and have him choose among several alternatives.

How to Involve Friends & Family in Fitness Activities
Some children might prefer to go with a friend or parent. Be creative and emphasize participation, not competition. To help your school-aged youngster become physically active, recruit the entire family to participate. Let your overweight child know that all of you, parents and siblings alike, are in his corner, and even if he has rarely exercised before, he can start now with the entire family’s support.

  • Go for family bike rides (with everyone wearing a helmet)
  • Swim together at the Y
  • Take brisk walks
  • Learn to cross-country ski
  • Sign up for golf lessons
  • Do activities of daily living together, such as household chores
  • Spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning the house or raking leaves

No matter what you choose, regular activity not only burns calories, but also strengthens your child’s cardiovascular system, builds strong bones and muscles, and increases flexibility. It can also diffuse stress, help him learn teamwork and sportsmanship, boost his self-esteem, and improve his overall sense of well-being.


Source: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity: A Road Map to Health (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active

exercise

Did You Know?

  • Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
  • Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
  • Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
  • About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
    Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Getting Started
Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active. Here are 11 ways to get started:

  1. Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appro­priate activities.
  4. Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  5. Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and chosen site for the sport or activity are safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate.
  6. Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other active toys.
  7. Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  8. Play with your child. Help her learn a new sport.
  9. Turn off the TV. Limit TV watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time, including TV, videos, computers, and video games, each day. Use the free time for more physical activities.
  10. Make time for exercise. Some children are so overscheduled with homework, music lessons, and other planned activities that they do not have time for exercise.
  11. Do not overdo it. When your child is ready to start, remember to tell her to listen to her body. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt. If this occurs, your child should slow down or try a less vigorous activity. As with any activity, it is important not to overdo it. If your child’s weight drops below an average, acceptable level or if exercise starts to interfere with school or other activities, talk with your child’s doctor.

Last Updated 11/18/2015. Source Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 10/2015). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

From Motor Skills to Sports Skills

motorskills

Children in the 2- to 5-year-old age group get their motivation and develop motor skills from self-play behaviors. Active games and play in the backyard, with friends at the park, or in heavily padded rooms can provide great sources of exercise in addition to nurturing that important relationship between parent and child.

Toddlers and preschoolers spend a lot of time just trying to master basic fundamental skills such as running, skipping, kicking, jumping, hopping, catching, and throwing. Kids acquire most of these skills by early elementary school.

Adults may not be able to understand that these activities really do take some effort for children. Much of the maturation process of controlling movement in children involves being able to move in different ways without falling over. Obviously, mastering those basic skills is a fundamental step children have to complete before they can proceed much further.

Infants may rely mostly on visual and oral information, but toddlers move away from the mouth being Command Central. They begin to process signals and cues from their brains and inner ears that may even cause a temporary decrease in their ability to maintain good balance as they approach their fourth or fifth birthdays.

Children can become overloaded with these signals while walking or running, and they must concentrate just to stay upright. Putting all of their attention into balance control may temporarily interfere with their ability to improve performance in other skills if there are other variables in the environment, such as many other players or uneven playing surfaces. Certainly with time, the act of jumping up and down and running around becomes easier without requiring as much focus to stay vertical.

If we could see what is going on in the minds of some young children, it might be very educational. While adults are yelling, “Get the ball! Get the ball!” the child may be thinking, “Don’t fall down! Don’t fall down!” That is why early soccer teams have been referred to as beehive soccer — many players simply swarm and follow the ball just trying to kick it, much to the dismay of the coach, who realizes that none of them are following the instructions of the detailed play outlined just moments before.

There is obviously a wide range of abilities in this age group, but relatively few children are really talented at these basic skills. It has been found that fewer than one third of 2- to 5-year-olds are truly effective at throwing and catching.


Author Paul R. Stricker, MD, FAAP. Last Updated 1/2/2014. Source Sports Success Rx! Your Child’s Prescription for the Best Experience (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Photo by Quinn Dombrowski. CreativeCommons License.

Be a Columbus Day Weekend Explorer

columbusday1

You certainly can’t complain about the recent stretch of good weather: cool, fall mornings and warm, summer afternoons. It’s the perfect time of year to get out into the woods! And what a better way to spend the Colmbus Day Weekend than exploring Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails.

The Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System, first established in 1929, currently totals over 825 miles of hiking trails in 96 Connecticut towns. The trails are open year-round to all forms of foot travel, unless otherwise posted. The trail system, marked with the blue rectangular blazes, offers a great way to explore the open space and protected land of Connecticut. Whether you’re looking for a short loop hike or to cover long miles, the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System has something for everyone.

For more information and to download trail maps, visit the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s website today!

Connecticut Trails Day Weekend, June 7 – 8

CTTrailsDay

Dust off your favorite hiking shoes and grab your water bottle. The 22nd annual Connecticut Trails Day Weekend celebration is almost here! The 2014 festivities will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8, as part of National Trails Day. Invite a friend to join in the fun and take part in one of the 258 trail events, featured in this year’s CT Trails Day Weekend Booklet.

There will be outdoor activities for everyone — including hiking, biking, horseback riding, running, trail maintenance, kayaking, educational walks, bird watching, letterboxing, and more. These events are guided by knowledgeable volunteers from local hiking clubs, parks and recreation departments, state agencies, conservation organizations, historic groups, education programs, and land trusts.

Don’t miss out on this fun-filled weekend, which will provide many opportunities to discover new places and experience the outdoors with family, friends, and neighbors.

CLICK HERE to download the CT Trails Day Weekend Booklet now!

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month

familyfit

Did you know that children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day? Given our hectic schedules otherwise, that seems like a lot! So, how can we find that kind of time on a regular basis? In honor of Family Fit Lifestyle Month, we’re offering these suggestions from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute…

EVERYDAY IDEAS TO MOVE MORE

Make Time

  • Identify free times. Keep track of your daily activities for one week. Pick two 30-minute time slots you could use for family activity time.
  • Add physical activity to your daily routine. For example, walk or ride your bike to work or a friend’s house, walk the dog with your children, exercise while you watch TV, or park farther away from your destination.
  • Try to walk, jog, or swim during your lunch hour, or take fitness breaks instead of coffee breaks. Try doing something active after dinner with your family, or on weekends.
  • Check out activities requiring little time. Try walking, jogging, or stair climbing.

Bring Others Into It

  • Ask friends and family to support your efforts. Invite them to be active with you.
  • Develop new friendships with physically active people. Join a group, such as the YMCA or a hiking club.

Energize Yourself

  • Plan to be active at times in the day or week when you feel you have a lot of energy.
  • Convince yourself that if you give it a chance, physical activity will increase your energy level—then try it.

Stay Motivated

  • Plan ahead. Make physical activity a regular part of your family’s schedule. Write it on a family activity calendar.
  • Join an exercise group or class. Sign your children up for community sports teams or lessons.
  • Pick activities requiring no new skills, such as walking or climbing stairs.
  • Exercise with friends who are at the same skill level as you are. Create opportunities for your children to be active with friends.

Build New Skills

  • Find a friend who can teach you new skills.
  • Take a class to develop new skills and enroll your children in classes too, such as swimming, dancing, or tennis.

Use Available Resources

  • Select activities that don’t need costly sports gear, such as walking, jogging, jumping rope, or doing push-ups.
  • Identify cheap, local resources in your area, such as programs through your community center, park or recreation group, or worksite.

Make the Most of All Conditions

  • Develop a set of activities for you and your family that are always available regardless of weather, such as indoor cycling, indoor swimming, stair climbing, rope skipping, mall walking, dancing, and active games that you can play indoors.
  • When the weather is nice, try outdoor swimming, jogging, walking, or tennis.

Adapted from: “Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.