It’s about a month into the New Year, and so far the resolutions haven’t exactly taken root.
I wanted to get into a regular exercise routine and thought I would drag my son Henry into it, too. We both need it for different reasons. I am a type II diabetic and have been told, repeatedly, that regular exercise will help my body manage my blood sugar levels. Henry is 12, a bit stocky, and starting to get into that age where he may feel a bit self-conscious about his body (particularly if kids nowadays are the same as they were when I was younger). He is not obese, by any means, but his pediatrician has suggested he lose about 15 pounds or so.
Besides, through my job at Oakwood Healthcare—not to mention common sense, in general—I know firsthand about all the benefits regular exercise can provide: better attitude, longer life, fewer health risks.
Even so, it is a struggle to get going each time we try to get going and I’m always reminded of a line from the old G.I. Joe cartoons, which ended with a type of public service announcement and: “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” Too bad it’s only half.
That’s why it’s important to get a routine going with someone else. They can help motivate you if don’t feel like exercising or are looking for excuses to take the night off. For me, it also helps to think about it as being beneficial for someone else. If I can’t do it for myself, I can do it for him—it gives us a better relationship, improves the odds that I’ll be around longer and will help him develop a better image of himself at the same time. He’s at an age when he can make decisions that will impact how he develops and lives for the rest of his life.
It is dangerous for children to be overweight, but it’s more common than ever before, according to Sara Moussa, MD, a staff physician at the Oakwood Pediatric Clinic and Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn. As many as 17 percent (or about 2.5 million) children and adolescents between 2 and 19 years old are overweight.
“That number has almost tripled since 1980, leading to a higher likelihood for obese children to have a high blood pressure and high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, breathing problems, joint problems and fatty liver disease,” she said.
Obviously, the issue steams from children who eat too much and don’t get enough physical activity. Those are issues you can—and have to—tackle at home on a daily basis.
“Although obesity is a disease that can result from genes, metabolism, culture and socioeconomic status, environment plays a huge role in children gaining access to unhealthy food choices,” said Dr. Moussa.
Here’s how you can help: keep healthy snack choices around the house, instead of chips, crackers and candy. It’s common sense, but a lot of times we don’t want to follow it because we don’t want to deprive ourselves of those kinds of snacks. Ask yourself: how can you ask your child to go without something you can’t give up?
Discourage them from eating merely because they’re bored. Suggest an activity instead. If that fails, push again for the healthy snacks. Here’s a regular exchange in our house:
Henry: I’m hungry.
Me/Lisa: Have an apple.
Henry: Never mind.
It’s one way to find out if they’re really hungry to begin with.
It’s a good idea, too, to keep some kind of food journal. That way you know what your child is eating when they’re not at home—which is particularly handy, given that most kids spend most of their waking hours at school, anyway, where there can be easy access to vending machines and other snacks.
“There is a huge responsibility places on the school system to provide healthy meals to children,” said Dr. Moussa. “Although there are strict guidelines for providing healthy meals to students, there is still access to unhealthy food choices.”
With exercise or just general activity, look for something you will both enjoy. Be open-minded to his or her suggestions and don’t be overbearing with yours. You want to find the right path, not one that is dictated for you, and develop the proper attitude to follow it.
Finally, if at first you don’t succeed, try again, or try something else. You don’t have to be perfect; just try to make progress!