Boys have become less fit over the past 20 years – even boys who aren’t overweight, according to a new study that emphasizes the need to stress child fitness and not just pounds or body mass.
As reported in U.S. News & World Report, “The research, conducted by the European Association for the Study of Obesity in Malaga, Spain, tested the aerobic fitness of 11-year-old boys by measuring heart rate recovery, the speed at which the heart rate returns to normal after exercise. The use of the metric as a gauge for physical fitness and the risk of cardiovascular diseases was based on a recent study that showed children with higher body mass index, or BMI, had slower heart rate recovery, suggesting a potential connection between healthier body weight and faster heart rate recovery.”
According to the study, “Healthy-weight boys in 2016 ran the course an average of 4.8 times, as opposed to the average of 5.1 times completed by their 1996 counterparts. Obese boys showed a less pronounced difference, completing the distance an average of 4.1 times in 2016 compared with 4.2 times in 1996. Both normal-weight and obese boys showed much lower cardiac efficacy and slower heart rate recovery at the end of the test and throughout recovery in 2016 compared to 1996.”
How can parents encourage boys and tweens to become healthier? In my opinion, make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family! The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime” so children will learn to emulate their parents. Families need to work – and play – together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships. With an integrated approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem – and help families bond – while increasing kids’ physical activity.
- Celebrate the beginning of summer and get moving! Schedule one afternoon a week for the family to do yard work together. Studies show that you can burn about 350 calories an hour mowing the lawn or 175 calories for 30 minutes of raking last year’s remaining leaves. Not only will you get a great workout, your yard will look great too.
- Help kids read between the lines. Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies, explains that it’s key to teach kids, even from a very young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)
- Play actively. It’s critical to keep your tweens moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can). Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and helps to prevent diabetes. For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids – and entire family – stay fit, check out Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).
Do want your son to get off the couch? Concerned about his weight management? Searching for a physical activity where your tween will have fun and want to keep coming back? Try Fitness for Health’s EDGE Athletic Training. Boys will work on mental processing, balance, proprioception, motor planning, motor sequencing, visual motor function, and conditioning. All are areas that will make the difference in sports– and give him an EDGE during game time. Call Chris Garcia at 301-231-7138 to schedule your FREE, one-hour workout.