According to a study published by the Health Sciences Research Council last year, one in five South African children are classified as overweight or obese with 20% of them not having not yet reached the age of six.
Another report by the Chronic Lifestyle Research Unit also indicates that 17% of children between the ages of one and nine years of age living in urban areas are classified as overweight.
As the this week is National School Health week, Virgin Active aims to educate parents on healthy lifestyle choices that could combat the onset of childhood obesity.
How to have a healthy lifestyle
Virgin Active’s national Club V manager, Robyn Moore, says a balanced diet and regular physical activity is of utmost importance in curbing excess weight gain in young children. “There has been a lot of focus in recent years on promoting a healthy lifestyle within one’s family. A healthy lifestyle includes a well balanced diet; drinking an adequate amount of water, at least three hours of physical activity a week, and eight hours of sleep a day.
"Often when people talk about diet it is misconstrued as a weight-loss mission, it simply means getting in enough energy, vitamins and nutrients to keep your body going.”
Moore says while a healthy lifestyle is attainable for some, other families find it difficult due to a lack of time. “There is always time for living healthy and it starts with eating the right foods. Once you’ve mastered this you are half way there.” She says simple things such as packing a nutritious lunchbox is but one of the ideas you can be creative with.
“A good way to ensure that your child is consuming the right mix of food is to include a variety of colour and different foods. Children need essential vitamins and nutrients in order for them to learn at their optimal level.”
Keeping kids active
While healthy eating is promoted at schools many do not offer physical education as part of the curriculum. Thus the onus is on parents to step in. Moore says physical activity is often seen as a chore for children but she advises that parents make it fun and use it as an opportunity to bond.
“Motivating your family to become physically active together is quite difficult especially for parents with teenagers. Exercising as a family does not have to be strictly going to gym, it can include a wide variety of activities such as hiking, swimming or even walking around the block. The easiest way for younger kids to buy into exercise is to play games in your garden or at the park. Getting mom and dad involved and competing against each other also brings a fun element to it.”
Moore suggests the following tips to help get your family moving:
- Sit down as a family and discuss what kind of activity you would be interested in.
- Create a schedule that suits the family for example a family night.
- Plan your exercise routine and write it down. Tracking goals and routine is important.
- Exercise does not have to be time consuming. Incorporating exercise into playing with your children allows you to spend time with them as well as reap the benefits of physical activity.
- Keep it up. Don’t get discouraged. Missing a day or two of exercise is not the end of the world but show your dedication by making up for those days.
Moore says including having fun into your daily routine can go a long way in solidifying the bond with your children. “Having fun with your kids are some of the most rewarding moments for any parent, let activeness help enrich your life.”
For more on Virgin Active’s Club V log onto www.virginactive.co.za or call 0860 200 911.
(Press release, Virgin Active, March 2012)
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