Help kids ‘move’ away from obesity

Story by Wei Qiu
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Mon, Jul 22, 2013
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Childhood obesity is an issue worldwide.

In 2009-2010, more than 12 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 5 were obese, and the obesity rate among 6- to 11-year-olds was as high as 18 percent.

Obesity affects a child’s physical and psychological health, and that has aroused massive concerns in our society. There is strong evidence that lower levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviors are associated with a higher prevalence of obesity in children.

Increasing the activity level in children is commonly considered an effective approach to combat obesity at a young age. This article introduces an easy and fun way that could help children “move” to a healthy start in life.

A lot of parents and teachers complain about not having enough time or space to allow children to be engaged in physical activity. This is a misperception. Children do not have to stay vigorously active for 60 minutes nonstop in a gym setting.

Activity for children can happen anytime, anywhere.

Physical activity can be structured into multiple, brief episodes of energy bursts that can be incorporated throughout the day without having to change the child’s daily schedule. They can easily be slipped in before, during and after different time blocks during the day.

These short bursts of activity are relatively short (about 2-3 minutes long), and appropriate for children at a very young age. There are often domains of cognitive, social/emotional, creative arts, or language and literacy learning involved. And, music with a strong beat can add more fun to the energy bursts.

Here are some energy-burst ideas that parents and teachers can use with preschool and kindergarten age children:

• Move like different animals — a kangaroo hop on two feet, a bunny or frog hop by crouching down into a squat and jumping forward, and slithering like a snake. Add in animal sound effects.

• Practice squat or star jumps and see if children can begin to jump into the air.

• Start a mini marching band. Practice marching in place, in a line, or different patterns. Use instruments.

• Dance to various types of music.

• Play the bicycle game by having children lie on their backs, bend their knees and pretend they are pedaling a bike. Practice pedaling s-l-o-w-l-y and QUICKLY. Pretend to pedal up a big hill or down a steep hill. As children pedal, talk about what they might be seeing on their pretend trip.

• Jump once for each child who is present.

• Stomp the ABCs.

• Teach group dances such as the bunny hop, the macarena, the hokey-pokey, the cha-cha slide and the chicken dance.

• Move from one activity to the next in different ways, i.e., walk like a “sneaky burglar” or a GIANT, or practice jumping Jacks and jumping Jills.

• “Sky-write” names by waving arms really hard to complete each stroke of each letter.

Wei Qiu is on the faculty of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WSU.

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