Looks like I'll be doing a six month stint with the Patriot News, hopefully more. I've changed a few of the pieces below to be more newspaper appropriate (i.e. no links, etc.), but my first, uh, assignment, was to contribute something for their immediate upcoming focus on childhood obesity.
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The recent introduction of the national health campaign "Lets Move" is exciting for physical therapists. The phrase "Move Forward" was branded by the American Physical Therapy Association over two years ago, and I hope the resemblance is not coincidental. As a professional, I'm well aware of the physiological effects of the Madagascar Move It - Move It theme song. But for now I remove that hat and write as an everyday parent.
What can I do to help my young kids want to move in five or fifty years? What practical steps can I take to exemplify and encourage an active lifestyle?
We should move nutrition and exercise way up on our list of priorities. We will surely benefit from greater access to healthy foods. But beyond the endeavors of Lets Move, we should also give attention to subtle but significant sneak attacks on the health of children and parents alike.
Yes parents need to move, all right. Some of the moves I'm trying to make are more painful than sweating at the park or gym.
Last week I watched a teenager text her friend while doing a "side plank" core stability exercise in my clinic. It has been said that there are always gains and losses to innovations. The gains are obvious and the losses are far more subtle.
Lets move on limited use of these gadgets formally known as cell phones. If your child is too young to operate a TV or computer, now is the time to lay the foundation. Lets move TVs and computers out of their bedrooms to begin with.
Would you send your child to bed every night with ice cream and sprinkles? The teenage years will be challenging enough without the extra fatigue and irritability, not to mention the intellectual side effects of Cribs. Physical lethargy and being stuck to the couch by day is yet another cost of nightly Xbox binges.
If you already hear objections about the TV in your bedroom, then maybe now is the time for mom or dad to move by example.
While shadowing a child's every move is definitely a workout for parents, is it beneficial to the child? Does hovering interfere with learning the consequences of gravity when the stakes are still low? Does it snuff out or wildly amplify their need to move and learn body control?
Lets move back a bit here. If you can't get outside, have a good couch jumping, cushion bashing session. Limits are needed, of course. If you prioritize nice furniture then make sure to have an old couch in the basement. Most couches will be out of style before the kids are grown, anyway.
Kids fall and get seriously injured all the time. You may know a story about a kid who fell horribly from a piece of furniture. I haven't heard that story, but I do not take it lightly. The issue here is relative risk. Our children could suffer a freak accident while doing just about anything. Don't the risks of a sedentary lifestyle far outweigh that of a little roughhousing?
What patterns would emerge if we dug into the upbringing of extreme athletes who flip and tumble at ridiculous heights? I doubt that mom said "cool, go ahead and go as big as you want." I imagine that she hovered and dad pushed baseball (or any traditional sport). Some children learned to shun physical activity while a few others became billboards for Red Bull.
Besides, how do you rebel against "wow that was awesome?"
What my young children want more than anything is their dad fully engaged in movement with them. It's not long that being engaged in the living room or on the front lawn beats a trip to Hershey Park. Who can afford to miss this chance to move the body and imagination?
The first move is always a period of playful trash talk. Power is claimed, demands are made, and resistance is rallied. Leaves or pillows are hurled between factions. There is a great charge and collision.
When the hunt, carry, wrestle, tickle, and toss of one victim is through, the others are recovered and raring to go. Being fully engaged is absolutely a workout. Kids know too well when your heart rate drops below the "target zone."
When my children watch me lifting weights in the basement, I often wonder how seeing their dad intentionally suffer under a heavy load will affect their attitude toward structured exercise. For now, I always slow play the formal exercise.
"I don't know if you can hang up there then run around the circle in 10 seconds. You can try if you want."
Are these suggestions idealistic, realistic, or effective? My oldest child is only six, so those questions will be answered in time. I'm sure many lessons will be learned, especially by the parents. Until then, lets pay attention to those going before us and see how our childrens physical condition is one product of larger issues at hand.
You like to - move it!
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