Monday, March 12, 2012

Developing Healthy Lifestyles

By: Mike Brown

CBS This Morning featured a segment, “Too fat to serve: Military wages war on obesity” last week. The statistics in the piece are staggering, “Among 17- to 24-year-olds, 27 percent are too overweight for military service. Over the past 50 years, the number of women considered ineligible due to weight has tripled, and the number of men has doubled.” This lead me to research similar statistics for children and I was hardly surprised to see the results mirrored those from the CBS segment. Today, nearly 1 in 3 American children are considered overweight or obese, triple the obesity rate of three decades ago. (

It doesn’t take a doctor, nutritionist, or celebrity chef to explain how our culture has reached this point. The lifestyle of today is vastly different than it was when we were children. It is easier and cheaper to head to the drive through for dinner than to prepare a home-cooked meal. It is commonplace for children to have several snacks each day, often consisting of processed foods high in fats and oils as well as sugar and sweeteners. Our high paced, technical lifestyles inhibit outside time and reduce our levels of physical activity.

Toddlers Preparing Snack to Share
Recently, I posted a link to an article promoting cooking with young children (Children cooking: How young can they be?). Cooking together provides family time. Time to enjoy each other, prepare healthy food and an opportunity to teach children practical, lifetime skills. These skills are integrated into the Montessori learning environment and help children grow in the motor skills, cognitive development, self-confidence, and independence. Practical life skills are certainly not limited to the kitchen. Any controlled movement helps children achieve independence and helps with concentration.

Learning Basic Balance Skills
It is important that physical activity be a regular part of family life. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. Simple childhood activities such as balancing, hopscotch, and tumbling provide a path for children to develop a love for a lifetime sport such as jogging, swimming, or even skiing. Recent publications in Australia concluded, “The value of physical activity for young children is beyond doubt, and lack of adequate physical activity is viewed as a major contributing factor to overweight and obesity, which can track into adulthood and pose many other cardiovascular and health risks.”

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