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Getting Kids Moving - Help for Overweight Teens
by: Kathryn Martyn
I recently read about a residential school program for overweight teens with a hefty price tag in excess of $5,000 per month. Whew, that should sweat off a few pounds just thinking about it. These programs rely on the same course as what is commonly recommended; a strict eating plan and increased activity schedule. Hopefully some counseling is offered, and college prep courses are the curriculum. But what of those kids? Are they getting a realistic head-start on a lifetime of healthier habits or are they simply doing what they are told, only to be fed to the wolves when they leave the safe environment of the school?
I tried to find stories of teens who had successfully completed these programs and gone on to healthy lives, and found none. What I did find were some other ideas, in case you feel you are at the end of your rope and don't know where to turn.
Exercise Should be Fun
First, get your child interested in some type of exercise activity, whether indoor or outdoor. Most overweight kids probably aren't too crazy about running and jumping up and down but what about bike riding? Another idea I'm wanting to try is hiking with a GPS (Global Positioning Satellite). If you like the outdoors, Geocaching sounds like enormous fun and anyone can do it. Adults are reporting losing 20, 30 or more pounds while they are out exploring the woods and hills in their surrounding area. Learning to use a GPS is educational (math, science, physics) at the same time.
I also recommend all parents get their kids into martial arts if they show any interest at all. Martial arts teaches kids discipline, respect for authority and builds self confidence and self esteem, and it has the added benefit of teaching self defense.
Talk to your kids. Find out what they may be interested in, and then explore the options together.
My son is a good example. He was never overweight but when he was 13 his skin tone was flabby. He didn't go outside much, preferring to play Nintendo, and was an excellent student so he studied every day. Luckily neighborhood kids invited him to start playing football, and today, five years later he's a senior in high school playing football and loving life. His body has shaped up nicely (he's still a young teen but now has muscles and an excellent skin tone). He's confident, well liked, and I have no worries that he'll continue with a healthier lifestyle from this point forward.
Before he took up football we bought him a bike which was rarely used. He has a skate board, a mini-scooter, and a pogo stick. We tried karate classes (sadly, he broke his wrist playing at school so had to stop, and then didn't want to return). Sometimes it takes awhile to find the right fit, but nearly everyone will feel better when they find a physical activity they like.
A search for "indoor sports Vancouver Washington " (without the quotes) gave me lots of ideas. If you live in the city, get out the phone book and/or search the Internet for indoor activities in your town. Here are a few I found:
Parks & Recreation:
Vancouver Indoor Sports
Books on Sports for Kids
The Ultimate Sport Lead-Up Game Book: The Very Best Skill-Building Games For Grades K-8 by Guy Bailey
and The Ultimate Home school Physical Education Game Book: Fun & Easy-To-Use Games & Activities To Help You Teach Your Children Fitness, Movement & Sport Skills by Guy Bailey
I also highly recommended DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), a video game that teaches kids dance steps as a challenge. Since you're moving while you play, those that get good at the game will also achieve excellent physical shape at the same time. There are clubs all around the world and many web sites devoted to the play and practice.
Finding something your kids will enjoy that keeps them active is all it takes, and if they are reluctant, I can tell you once the blood starts pumping they'll get jazzed. You may just find something you love as well. Don't be afraid to try a few different things before you find the right fit, and wait to buy expensive equipment until you know it's something you and your kids really love. You'll be saving an equal amount in less food, soft drinks and medical bills down the road. Get up and get moving and your kids will naturally follow your lead.
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