Children's Fitness and Childhood Obesity
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I've been fortunate enough to know Ken
Germano for over 10 years and can absolutely say he's always enjoyed positively
changing people's lives through physical fitness initiatives. He's done that
working in just about every fitness arena from health clubs to representing
major exercise equipment manufactures and now as the President of the American
Council on Exercise (ACE).
ACE is the largest governing body for
fitness professionals and is the certification most clubs require when hiring
Ken has enormous responsibility in his
position, from helping to raise the standards of fitness professionals, to
helping Americans become more active. Our interview focused on the issue that
is nearest and dearest to Ken -- childhood obesity.
Read on to find out the physical fitness
challenges youths face, how activity levels are worsening, some staggering
statistics and what you should and should not do to encourage your children to
be physically active. As a bonus, ACE lists the top 10 fun fitness summer
activities for kids.
How did children's fitness become a
personal mission of yours?
Educating the public on this very serious
issue and helping children achieve a healthier lifestyle through fitness has
always been a passion and priority in my life. I have kept an eye on physical
education initiatives in and outside of schools for years. In the early 1980's,
I became very aware of the demise of physical education in schools and as a
business person, I looked for ways to underscore initiatives.
I founded Operation FitKids in 1990 in
response to a challenge by Arnold Schwarzenegger, former chairman of the
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. His challenge was to
support and underscore physical education initiatives in our nation's schools
to improve the health and fitness of our country's youth.
Operation FitKids has since emerged as a
significant program in the area of youth fitness, helping thousands of children
experience the benefits of physical fitness each year and giving them a safe
and productive place to spend their time.
Are children's activity levels improving
or worsening... and how so?
Childrens activity levels have
dropped significantly. There has been a dramatic increase in obesity rates and
type 2 diabetes cases among children. Our school districts are strapped for
funding and programs soon disappear as do the teachers that once drove these
curriculums. We see more and more children watching television or sitting in
front of computers instead of playing outside with friends or involved in team
sports. To reverse this trend, our nations schools must support physical
What is the most staggering statistic
related to children's inactivity and obesity levels?
Obesity among youths in this country has
risen nearly 200 percent over the last two decades.
Forty percent of all 5- to 8-year-old
children already show at least one incidence of heart disease, hypertension,
high cholesterol or diabetes.
Seventy six percent of all 5th, 7th and 9th
graders tested did not meet the minimum requirement for physical fitness in the
state of California.
As many as 92 percent of all children and
adolescents with type 2 diabetes are significantly overweight and about 40
percent are clinically obese.
What can parents do to have a positive
influence on their children's physical activity?
Parents need to create family time around
physical activity. For optimal health and long-term weight management, it has
been recently recommended that adults and children should spend a total of at
least one hour each day in moderately intense physical activity.
This doesnt necessarily mean a
grueling hour of exercise. It can be achieved through a variety of
moderate-intensity activities. Those 60 minutes do not have to be done all at
once; several 10- to 15-minute bouts of physical activity performed throughout
the day are adequate.
There are few limitations on what types of
activities parents and children can do at a moderate intensity. Brisk walking
is, perhaps, the most popular choice since it can easily be incorporated into a
busy day, has low injury rates, does not require special skills or equipment
and can be done by virtually anyone at any age. The bottom line is that parents
should choose activities their families enjoy that can be easily incorporated
into a daily routine.
What should parents avoid when
encouraging an adolescent to become more active?
Parents should avoid the "do as I say but
not as I do" syndrome. Kids tend not to understand the importance and joy of
fitness if their parents are not positive role models. Children love it when
parents are actively involved with them and participating. Always lead by
example. If parents are overweight and inactive, then it is likely that their
children will be. Overweight inactive parents in 75 percent of the cases
produce overweight and inactive kids.
ACE LISTS THE TOP 10 FUN FITNESS
ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Summer is here and children need to stay
active, healthy and busy during their break from school. Parents need to
encourage their children to warm up properly and stretch before each activity.
They should also teach them never to play through any type of pain or make
winning the reason for playing any sport. Let them choose the activity and keep
the focus on having fun. To keep kids moving, the American Council on Exercise
suggests 10 fun summer fitness activities.
1. Soccer: This highly active game
involving both agility and teamwork has grown increasingly popular in the U.S.
in recent years. To keep kids injury free, be sure they are geared up in
appropriate protective equipment, such as shin guards, prior to every practice
and game. Soccer players should also wear shoes with cleats or ribbed soles to
2. Martial Arts: With a variety of
forms to choose from, martial arts are a great way to get kids involved in a
sport that involves strength, coordination and mental discipline. Proper
training and equipment to prevent injury are a must.
3. Bike Riding: Bicycle riding is a
fun activity for the whole family. Experts suggest children ride on sidewalks
and paths until they are at least 10 years old, show good riding skills and be
able to follow the rules of the road. Helmets, of course, are a necessity for
both children and adults.
4. Swimming: Nothing beats splashing
around a pool with friends, and swimming offers the benefits of a full-body
workout for both young and old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends
swimming lessons for children ages four and up, although classes are available
for babies and toddlers as well.
5. Basketball: Whether its a round
of HORSE, a game of one-on-one, or a full-court competition, basketball is
ideal for developing hand/eye coordination and teamwork. Encourage children
under the age of seven to use a smaller foam or rubber ball, and lower the
height of the basket if possible.
6. Obstacle Courses: Challenge kids
to use a variety of different skills by setting up an obstacle course at the
park using playground equipment or other items such as jump ropes, balls and
7. Dancing: Whether your kids like
ballet or hip-hop, dancing encourages them to be creative and move their bodies
freely. For video arcade fans, an innovative new game challenges opponents to
follow a dance routine while watching the video. Kids can spend time learning
new moves while also getting a great workout.
8. Board Sports: Whether
snowboarding in the winter, surfing in the summer, or skateboarding year-round,
kids love to be on the board. Injury risk, however, is higher for these sports.
For both snowboarding and skateboarding, kids should wear helmets to prevent
head injuries, and surfers or boogie-boarders should always be accompanied by
9. Jumping Rope: Jumping rope is
still a favorite on most playgrounds. Whether alone or in a group, jumping rope
challenges both coordination and stamina.
Ice-skating, inline-skating and hockey can be both fun and safe as long as
appropriate protective gear such as a helmet, wrist guards and kneepads are
worn. Hockey players should wear a helmet with foam lining and a full-face
mask, mouth guard, shoulder, knee, elbow and shin pads, as well as gloves.
To find out more information on Operation
Fit Kids, go to:
The American Council on Exercise (ACE),
Americas authority on fitness, is a non-profit organization dedicated to
promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against
unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nations
"workout watchdog," ACE sponsors university-based exercise science research and
testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for
fitness professionals and is the worlds largest nonprofit fitness
certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call
(800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at
Kelli has her Master's Degree in Cardiac
Rehabilitation and Exercise Science. She has been in the fitness industry for
over 14 years and has owned and operated fitness centers as well as managed and
consulted in private and corporate fitness facilities.