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Keep your kids on their toes to keep them fit!



The best gift you can give your kids is a healthy lifestyle

The Hudson Valley provides a wonderful playground for families, whether it's hiking, biking, or visiting one of our local playgrounds.  But the main thing is to keep moving!

A healthier lifestyle can be one of the best gifts you can give your child.
And, while we’ve heard this countless times, and have gotten really good at tuning out the message, it bears repeating: according to the New York State Department of Health, a third of our kids are obese or overweight. Not surprisingly, the percentage of obese adults in New York has more than doubled from 10 percent in 1997 to 24 percent in 2009.

Here are six low to no-cost suggestions that you can put into place right now, even in the busiest of family schedules.


Rediscover your happiness!


Jumpstart a fitness routine
While it may be tempting to declare an end to video games and immediately enforce a sixty-minute afterschool exercise program, this sort of quick change would most likely backfire.

Here are six steps to guide you into integrating fitness at an even pace into your family’s schedule without causing too much resistance. (If your child has been inactive or has weight issues, visit your pediatrician first to discuss their exact situation and the appropriate activities and eating strategies for them.)

  • Know your child’s current fitness level. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition website has guidelines, but one local YMCA can help. “We can do a quick fitness test for kids, even non-members that involves a few pushups, a run around the cones. The kids just think it’s a fun activity,” says Heidi Kirschner, president of the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County.
  • Decide to make a commitment as a family to improve fitness. “We find that the best outcomes are realized when parents and kids participate together, are active and have fun,” Kirshner says.
  • Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to families and fitness. From hiking to swimming to weekend leaf raking, create a list of the activities that your family might enjoy doing together. At a family meeting, list favorite activities and work it into  the family’s schedule.
  • "Children need to play and play often," says Steve Ciancio, physical education teacher from Overlook Primary School in Poughkeepsie. “(They) should be participating in activities that raise their heart rate for approximately sixty-minutes per day. A combination of healthy eating habits and participation in daily physical activity are two of the most essential components to a child’s overall wellness.”
  • Physical activity can include doing yard work, taking a nightly walk around the block, or a family weekend of hiking.

The earlier the better
From toddler to teen, the best time to begin on the road to fitness is right now. “During my 18 years teaching physical education, I have noticed a decrease in the physical fitness levels and abilities of the first and second grade students that I teach,” says Ciancio. “Many students [now] become tired and out of breath very quickly and are unable to sustain a high level of activity for even a short period of time.”


Make fitness a part of the family!

Ciancio emphasizes the importance of parents being a positive role model for their family when it comes to exercise and eating habits. A child who from the start sees his parents working out and eating right is more likely to develop those same habits and take them into adulthood.

“As the parent of a six-year-old boy, I have encouraged my son to stay fit and active by modeling healthy habits, taking him to the playground, going out to kick a ball around with him or have a catch with him,” says Ciancio.

A healthy lifestyle can be a lifesaver
“Exercise is one aspect to leading a healthy life and controlling obesity,” says Kirschner. “Obesity has been linked to many diseases such as diabetes and heart disease to name a few.”

Poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity have contributed to Type 2 diabetes becoming an increasingly common problem for young people.

Janine Boldrin is a mom of three, and a freelance writer.