Healthy Kids    

10 ways to help overweight kids get healthy

Plus, discover the best places in the Hudson Valley for kids to be active this winter!

With the holidays season over, the temptations to indulge in sweets and other goodies are hopefully becoming a thing of the past. For parents of overweight children, getting children to understand the dangers of overindulging at any time of year can be difficult. San Diego State University exercise and nutritional sciences professor David Kahan offers ten ways to help parents get overweight kids back on track, not just after the holidays, but for the rest of their life.


"Being physically active every day is especially crucial for children struggling with weight issues," says Kahan, a physical education teacher and researcher. "Overweight and obese youth carry social, psychological and emotional burdens that often lead to anger, despair and ultimately, a sedentary lifestyle. Our goal is to help youth love physical activity."

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Kahan offers these tips for getting kids in shape:


1. Set an example: Be a good role model of overall wellness.

2. Emphasize your child's strengths: If it's something they enjoy or are good at, they are much more likely to do it.

3. Foster a positive atmosphere that feels safe and inviting, is free of sarcasm, insults and harassment. Be a consistent source of comfort and encouragement.

4. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes: Help your child control behaviors and focus on how to change, not the results of changing.

5. Face the facts: Denial is dangerous. Parents need to acknowledge when a child seems to be gaining weight or is overweight.

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6. Develop a social support network: Find a social niche where an overweight child is with others who share the same positive attitudes toward physical activity and health or at least support the child's needs and intentions.

7. Help the child feel comfortable: It is better to offer physical activity settings in which the overweight child can work at his own pace or level.

8. Get a doctor's advice: Physical education programs that report a child's body mass index (BMI) may inadvertently trigger parental overreaction and undue stress on an overweight child. Parents should consider having their overweight child assessed by his or her pediatrician before undertaking an intervention.

9. Nutrition is key: Educate young people how to make smart food choices. Teach overweight children about serving sizes, how to select low-fat snacks and how to recognize when they are full.

10. Reduce screen time: The numbers tell the story. In the average 3.47 daily hours a 100-pound child spends engaged in screen-based media (TV, computer, video games) he or she burns 166 calories, contrasted with swimming (666), walking the dog briskly (687), playing half-court basketball (937) or hiking (957). To learn more about the detrimental effects of screen time, click here.


Kahan says another crucial part of addressing this major societal issue is for parents to actively petition local schools to take a larger role in helping students meet fitness goals. "That is why it is critically important for all parents to demand their children participate in quality physical education and physical activity programs, and get a minimum of 60 minutes of daily physical activity."


David Kahan is author of Supersized P.E.: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Teaching Overweight Students, coauthored by Josh Trout, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Chico (