Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Active Living for Children & Youth
“Healthy active living”
means being physically active & eating well every day.
Did you know that more than half of
Canadian children are not active enough for optimal growth and development? That
means they are not as healthy as they could be.
As well, 25% of children are
considered obese, and that number is on the rise. The main reasons are:
- Lack of physical activity. Many children and
youth are not getting enough physical activity or exercise.
- Poor eating habits. Many kids eat too much
convenience, junk or fast foods, which are high in fat and calories.
Families can play an
important role in promoting healthy active living. Here are some suggestions:
Get the whole family
involved in regular physical activity and healthy eating. It will be easier if
everyone’s in it together. If you focus on just one child, they may feel
like they’re being punished. If your children are not active, increase the
time that they currently spend on physical activities and sports by at least 30
minutes a day. They should spend at least 10 minutes on “vigorous
activity,” which makes their hearts beat faster, makes them breathe
harder, and makes their bodies feel warm.
Make active living part of your
child’s daily routine. It’s easier and more realistic than relying
only on scheduled, organized activities:
Encourage your child to take part in
activities that involve moving, not sitting. Set limits on how much time they
spend watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Internet—no more
than one hour a day. Organized sports alone (such as a soccer team or a hockey
league) aren’t enough to keep children and youth healthy. Encourage them
to also discover activities they can do and enjoy every day, such as
walking or cycling to a friend’s house or skipping rope. If you
drive your children to school, try walking instead, or organize a walking club
with the neighbours. Encourage your children to take the stairs instead of the
escalator or elevator. Get your child involved in activities around the house:
carrying the groceries, raking leaves, or shovelling snow. Be sure
activities are safe. Children and youth should wear protective equipment for
activities like cycling, skating, skateboarding, soccer, and other physical
- Limit the amount of high-fat, high-calorie foods
you bring into your home. It’s easier for children to make healthy choices
if there’s no junk food around to tempt them. If you do bring home foods
like chips or cookies, buy smaller packages.
- Help your children choose foods that are high in
cereal fibre—like bran, wheat, and rye. These include dry cereal or cereal
bars, which are naturally filling and low in calories.
- Provide your children with healthy snacks.
Instead of high-fat foods like chips and donuts, offer fruit and raw vegetables,
like celery and carrots.
- Encourage your child to drink water instead of
juice. Even juice that is labelled “unsweetened” can have as many
calories as soft drinks. Set a limit on juice and soft drinks. Aim for no more
than 4 to 8 oz a day, depending on your child’s size and weight.
- If your children eat at fast food restaurants,
help them resist the temptation to “supersize” their meals. Stick
with regular portions, and don’t go as often.
- Help your child or teen accept their body.
Instead of dieting, encourage them to get active. Dieting leads to a
“yo-yo” cycle of weight gain and weight loss that is not healthy.
- If your child is overweight, talk to your doctor
about setting realistic weight-loss goals, and about developing a plan to reach
Be a role
- Your children will learn most about healthy
active living from you.
- Builds strong bones and strengthens muscles.
- Helps children stay flexible.
- Helps children reach and maintain a healthy
- Promotes good posture and balance.
- Improves children’s fitness levels.
- Helps children meet new friends.
- Strengthens the heart.
- Helps children feel better about their bodies.
- Helps children relax.
- Enhances healthy growth and development.
Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living, Health Canada:www.paguide.comGo
for Green: Ideas for healthy, outdoor physical activities that protect the
environment. National programs include Active & Safe Routes to School and
International Walk to School Day: www.goforgreen.caThis
information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice
of your physician. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may
recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.