When a child is overweight, both decreasing the number of calories consumed, especially those from sweet beverages, desserts and junk food, and increasing physical activity are crucial. Here are some tips from UCSF's Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Clinic on how to help your child exercise.
In addition to the tips above, it is important to remember that exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial. Children and adults need to rest while exercising and listen to their bodies. Don't do anything that hurts. Take one to two days off between vigorous activity days or perform a less intense activity, such as walking instead of running, or try yoga or pilates to get a good stretch.
While some people equate exercising with the gym, you don't have to be in a gym to be exercising. All movement is good, whether it's walking around the block, playing at the park or dancing around the house. To get more activity into your child's life, focus on what he or she enjoys. Dancing, skateboarding, hiking, riding a bike and other fun activities all count. If short on time, break the day's exercise into stages. Walking for 10 minutes three times a day results in the same health benefits as walking for 30 minutes each day.
And remember, exercise is a great way to spend time with family and friends. Taking a walk together is a great time to talk. Playing in the park is a wonderful way for the family to spend a Saturday afternoon. Be creative, be consistent and make sure everyone is having fun.
Another approach, which can be used in conjunction with the ideas above, recognizes that children are watching an increasing amount of television, often in place of more physical activities.
Get a treadmill and set it up in front of the television, but not in the child's room. With this approach the child can watch as much television as he or she wants, but only while walking on the treadmill. If they get tired of walking, they need to turn off the television.
Keep in mind that children older than 2 should spend no more than one to two hours a day watching television, playing video games and using the computer. (Children under 2 years of age should not watch any television.) Studies have shown that limiting television is an important part of helping children lose weight and be more active. It's also crucial to not eat in front of the television.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
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