This month’s theme Down on the Farm brings to mind the “good old days” when everybody had fried eggs, bacon, and biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Nobody worried about high cholesterol or calories. In the “good old days” no one was concerned about physical fitness for children. Heart disease and hypertension were unknown for children.
Now, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, up to 50 percent of American children are not getting enough exercise to develop healthy hearts and lungs. Forty percent of 5 – 8-year-old children show at least one risk factor for heart disease, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, or physical inactivity. Childhood obesity is becoming more prevalent. This is important not only because it is associated with adult obesity and disease but also because prejudice and discrimination against fat children are widespread and can limit the child’s potential. When viewed from this perspective any caring parent would want to help a child maintain an appropriate weight.
It is important to state emphatically that “diets” are not appropriate for young children. They need fat for the development of the brain. Muscles and tissues are still growing and systems are still developing. It is, however, always appropriate to begin developing healthy habits and attitudes related to foods. Only good healthy foods should be available to children and food should not be used as a reward or punishment or as evidence of love. The most important thing that parents can do to help children regulate their weight and fitness is to become a family of active people.
When we all lived Down on the Farm, contrived exercise was not necessary. The daily chores of living were more than enough to provide adequate exercise. Technology has made our lives easier and no one would want to go back but for the health of our children, we must encourage more active pursuits. Families are always the most important influencing factor in the lives of young children and example is always the best teacher! Families need to develop a form of exercise which they can enjoy together. It can be a sport such as playing ball or bowling; a task such as gardening or yard work; or an activity such as biking or walking. TTLC also tries to do its part to encourage healthy levels of activity by setting aside a 30 minute period each day for structured physical activities to provide a healthy cardiovascular workout and longer periods of time for active free play indoors and out to develop strength and coordination.
Each year parents request that their children be excused from outside active play because “they don’t like it” or “it’s too hot or cold”. Although parents intend these requests to be supportive of their children. . . they may actually be shortening their child’s life. For the sake of your child’s life-long health, encourage and model healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle.