By now most Americans have heard there is a major problem with childhood obesity in our country. It’s hard to ignore when the media and health experts continually warn us of the dangers. Just recently, Fitness Journal reported that preteens today are expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Similarly, the CDC says that more than one-third of children are overweight or obese, which are historically high values.
But that doesn’t mean our youth must yield to the many chronic conditions associated with obesity, such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure, bone and joint problems, increased risk of cancer, not to mention negative psychological and social effects. All it takes is a hearty dose of proactivity, education and encouragement to help them as a generation eat healthier and play more (video games excluded).
As the Fitness Director of the Bellevue Club for more then 20 years, I have learned a trick or two about how to do this. The biggest thing I have learned about helping children is you have to make the approach extremely kid-friendly. This means emphasizing exercising as enjoyment through playing games or sports rather than forced workout regimes. It’s important that kids have fun while moving, or else they won’t do it. Luckily there are numerous classes, sports and activities out there that create a nonthreatening, noncompetitive and positive environment for children to thrive (many of which are available right here at Bellevue Club). You just have to find one that fits your family’s needs.
The other major component to the equation is nutrition. And I (with the help of our staff of registered dietitians) have found that children do not respond well to calorie-counting programs and strict diets. What they do respond to are game-like nutrition-based challenges and questions such as, Can you eat vegetables from all the colors of the rainbow? By encouraging kids to have fun and stay positive about fitness and food, we can set the stage for long-term healthy habits and a happy future for our children.
That being said, I will be the first to admit that working with children to change their habits, all while trying to keep it fun and light, has its challenges. That’s why our Wellness Team created our Generation Wellness (Gen W) program. Children enrolled in Gen W work with both trainers and nutritionists to learn how to have fun while achieving their individual fitness goals. If you think your child could benefit from being a part of the program or the other kid-friendly classes and activities at the Club, visit bellevueclub.com or call 425.688.3172.
Sue Matyas, Fitness Director