Category Archives: Abbie Gets Fit

How the ‘nanny state’ is making the childhood obesity epidemic worse:

And 10 tips to take charge, get your child off the couch and get fit now!

March 5, 2015
By Doug Werner

biking familySufficient evidence is in and there is no debate! The USA, in fact most of the world, is suffering from a childhood obesity crisis of epidemic proportions. An epidemic that not only dooms its victims to a lifetime of chronic illness, psychological disorders and even early death, but one whose current and future costs are also posing a real economic threat to healthcare systems all over the world.

According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine, nearly 1/3 of all American children under the age of 18 are overweight or obese, and that number has grown by 10% every decade for the last 30 years. Designed to Move, a recent physical activity action agenda created by Nike and The American College of Sports Medicine, estimates that today’s generation of American youth will be the first in our history that will not live longer lives than their parents. And, according to The Impact of Obesity on Health Service Utilization and Costs in Childhood Obesity, a 2009 study, the total direct healthcare costs attributable to childhood obesity in America alone is $14.1bn per year, with healthcare costs for obese children nearly 48% higher than non-obese children.

No, there is no longer any debate about the staggering human and financial costs of this chronic illness. It is deadly and it is getting worse! However, there is plenty of debate about who’s responsible for solving the physical inactivity and diet issues which are routinely considered the primary drivers of this condition. And, as they are prone to do with any issue which demands personal responsibility and accountability, the nanny state is doing its best to regulate, and legislate, solutions. From taxes on ‘sugary drinks’ to ‘fast food free zones’ near schools, state and federal government is taking a stance on this issue which by design almost completely ignores the key influence in this battle…the role of the parent!

Standing on the demarcation line all too frequently crossed by the nanny state, ask yourself the following questions. Who is routinely determined to be responsible for kids brushing their teeth every day? Who is responsible for kids doing their homework every night? Kids obeying the law? Getting enough sleep? Taking a bath? Ask any doctor, dentist, cop or teacher who needs to ‘take charge’ of a child’s behavior and you’ll get the same answer…the parents! The government can pass all the laws they want regarding bedtime, without the demands of a parent, few children are headed to bed before passing out in front of an electronic device of some sort. Yet, when it comes to meals and exercise, we need to depend on government intrusion and policymaking to ensure the right behaviors? As the parent of two teenage children, I think not. And, does anyone really believe that an extra 5 or 10 cents per soda, or an extra 5 minute drive or walk for a Big Mac is going to change anyone’s eating habits? Really?

By absolving parents of most of the responsibility for their children’s actions around this issue, whether by design, implication or ignorance, the nanny state is only making the childhood obesity epidemic worse! As with most areas of childhood development, most kids need their parents to be committed to providing an environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that our education system, which over the last 30 years has offered up only one or two hours of gym class per week in elementary schools, has already contributed to this dilemma by unintentionally deceiving parents into believing their children were getting ‘all the exercise they need’ at school (after all, most of us feel that way about most other subjects at school). Kids need a minimum of 60 minutes per day of exercise to be healthy…not 1 or 2 hours per week! Not coincidentally, physical education is typically one of the few subjects in schools that also issues no homework! Our government can force any physical education requirements they want on schools, without the engagement and inspiration of parents at home, and for 365 days per year, most overweight or inactive children will not benefit nearly enough to solve the problem.

So what’s a conscientious parent to do to insure their child grows up with a firm respect for the need to be fit and healthy? Well, like most other values that children learn, the earlier the better. And, of course, parental role modeling, commitment and involvement are essentials as well. But therein lays a tremendous win-win too! Daily involvement in your child’s exercise program not only helps to improve their health and fitness, but it will also benefit you. And, in addition to the obvious physical fitness rewards, there are significant bonding benefits as well. Here are ten ways to promote exercise within your family.

  1. No time to exercise? Cut out at least one hour of TV each night, go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier – the average child in America watches 25 hours of TV per week – their parents are watching nearly 35 hours per week – watch less and exercise more!
  2. Buy each member of your family an inexpensive pedometer and set a daily goal of 10,000 steps or more per person (less for younger children) – make this fun by encouraging competition and offering fun awards for daily, weekly or monthly achievement.
  3. Establish a daily exercise ‘routine’ for each member of your family that is scheduled and non-negotiable – make this fun for your children by allowing them to help choose their designated time and activity and to ‘track’ their results on a calendar.
  4. Establish a regular weekend routine that includes family hikes, jogs, bike rides, paddling or swimming – make this fun for your children by choosing a different destination or activity each weekend.
  5. Set a family goal to complete a minimum number of ‘walk/run’ events together each year – make this fun by occasionally choosing events in family friendly areas that are new to your family.
  6. Watching a long TV movie or sporting event together? Use the ‘pause’ button to take an ‘exercise break’ or to get outside and simulate the game you’re watching.
  7. Use the car less and your feet more – whenever possible, walk, bike or jog instead of ride – don’t let your children get ‘hooked’ on motorized transportation. If you do need to drive, park as far as safely possible from your destination – don’t send the wrong message to your children by lazily cruising parking lots looking for spaces ‘near the door’.
  8. On long trips; build in walks, hikes or jogs along the way – use a map to find safe and convenient pedestrian areas or parks along your route – a great way to improve your sightseeing experience as well.
  9. Join a family friendly fitness center – there are nearly 30,000 health clubs in America and most offer a wide variety of affordable exercise options for families – go to http://www.healthclubs.com to find a club near you.
  10. Not sure where to start…take a walk! Of walking, Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke of the American College of Sports Medicine says, “There are certainly many forms of cardiovascular exercise that improve health and fitness, such as running, cycling, and swimming. But, from the perspective of finding a great exercise program for the most number of people, walking is the best bang for your buck.” And, done with your child, walking provides a wonderful bonding experience as well.

Doug Werner is a parent of two teenage children and the author of ‘Abbie Gets Fit’, the critically acclaimed children’s book chronicling a true story about one nine year old girl’s journey to get fit with Doug…her dad. He is a member of The American College of Sports Medicine, a 35-year veteran of the fitness industry and a recipient of that industry’s Distinguished Service Award. He can be reached at doug@abbiegetsfit.com. ‘Abbie Gets Fit’ is available at www.abbiegetsfit.com or www.amazon.com.

Strength Training for All Teenagers

By Wayne L. Wescott, Ph.D

Teenage strength trainingWe have learned that there are essentially two types of teenagers – those who enthusiastically participate in sports programs and those who have little interest in physical activities. Be assured that the vast majority of teenage boys and girls remain firmly entrenched in the latter category.

Both groups of teenagers need to do regular strength training, but for different purposes. Athletes typically use some muscle groups much more than other muscle groups, setting up muscle imbalances that frequently lead to sport-specific injuries. Generally speaking, teenage athletes benefit most from a comprehensive program of strength exercise that effectively addresses all of their major muscles, thereby eliminating weak links in their musculoskeletal system and reducing the risk of overuse/imbalance injuries. We recommend a combination of free-weight and machine exercises that include single-joint actions.

We encourage coaches to bring their teams to our exercise center during the off-seasons. We train the athletes on a Tuesday-Thursday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, between 3 to 4p.m., which is typically a low-use time (in commercial gyms).

As you might guess, teaching strength training to enthusiastic athletes is much easier than motivating sedentary secondary school students to start a strength-training program. Teenagers who are under-fit or overweight seem to be embarrassed about exercising in a fitness facility. Yet these are the youngsters who have the most to gain from strength training, so we must develop programs that encourage their participation.

We offer two such programs that have proved successful with younger teenagers. The more popular teen fitness program incorporates a full circuit of weight-stack machines (single and multiple-muscle exercises), and features both adult and older teen instructors. This 10-week class typically consists of 10 to 15 boys and girls, and meets twice a week from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Although discipline is seldom a problem, we emphasize more social interaction among the teenagers in the non-athlete classes to make the program more enjoyable. Our more recent youth fitness endeavor was a carefully designed and closely supervised program for instructing young teenagers in the proper performance of free-weight exercises. This class met once a week (Saturday mornings) in the free-weight facility, and was well received by both participants and their parents.

In both programs, the instructional staff certifies teenagers who demonstrate acceptable levels of competence, confidence, manners and maturity to use the facilities and equipment on their own after completing their classes. Contrary to our cautious expectations, we have experienced essentially no problems or member complaints regarding our teen strength-training programs or the graduates who have become respectful and respected fellow exercisers in our fitness center. Keep in mind that your teenage program participants today will be your adult members tomorrow, so it makes sense to prepare them properly for a lifetime of physical activity.

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., Director of Exercise Science at Quincy College is co-author of two books on youth strength training. He wrote this column with Cynthia Long, the wellness director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA for Club Industry magazine in October, 2001.

Strength Training and Children

By Wayne L. Westcott

strength training

As our society becomes more sedentary and young people spend more of their time in non-physical pursuits, we see progressively lower levels of physical fitness in increasingly larger numbers of boys and girls. Over a 15-year period, childhood obesity has increased more than 50 percent and super obesity has more than doubled. As a result, Type II diabetes, formerly called adult onset diabetes, has become prevalent in teenagers and even preadolescents.

One way to keep the obesity rate down is to get children involved with strength training. Research has shown that strength training is the best means for improving body composition in youth as it address two problems in many preadolescents namely too little muscle and too much fat.

The most critical time for developing strong bones is during the childhood years. Recent research indicates that strength training is about six times more effective for building bone in preadolescent girls than it is in young, middle-aged or older women. Contrary to the myth that strength training is detrimental to young bones, it is actually the best way to develop a strong musculoskeletal system.

But not all equipment is appropriate for kids to be using for strength training. In our experience, boys and girls under 12 years of age appear to do better training on youth-sized resistance machines. However, children 12 years and older can training effectively on standard selectorized machines, especially when using pressing movements (leg press, chest press, incline press, shoulder press, triceps press, assisted bar-dip, etc.) and pulling movements (seated row, pull down, assisted chin-up, etc.) Youth under 5 feet tall have difficulty aligning their joint axes of rotation with machine axes of rotation, so rotary exercises (leg extension, leg curl, triceps, biceps curl, etc.) are not recommended.

Selectorized machines are also good for kids because they give realistic, concrete results, which they like. For instance, they can see that this month they lifted one plate and the next month they lifted two. This is great for keeping their motivation level high.

In addition to selectorized equipment, young people also do well on youth-sized hydraulic equipment. Hydraulic equipment reduces the risk of injury because there are no weight stacks involved. With hydraulic equipment, however, the feedback isn’t as evident, because kids cant see what they are lifting. Also, hydraulic equipment only provides concentric muscle action and not eccentric.

If a club isn’t able to purchase a separate line of equipment for children, it has two choices: It can use regular machines and try to pad the kids into them, or it can use dumbbells, elastic bands and medicine balls. The only concern with dumbbells is that the kids have to have close supervision because there is a lot of freedom of movement, and they can hurt themselves if they are performing the exercises incorrectly.

While dumbbells are OK for kids to use, rm not proponent of barbell exercises for children because there is a greater risk of injury. They could get caught under the bar because of lack of skill and strength. With safer options available, kids should avoid using barbells. For the most part, any exercise you can do with equipment you can also do with elastic bands. The only thing to consider is that there is less motivation because the kids can’t see their progress as well.

I have also had a lot of success training kids using graduated medicine balls. The results I have gotten in terms of muscle gain and power have been excellent, and the children love it because it is a realistic and active form of exercise. You will see a lot more information on this in the future.

After 15 years of youth strength training programs with no injuries, I am confident that this activity is safe and beneficial for children.

A sensible strength training program enhances musculoskeletal development, encourages self-confidence and elicits a physically active lifestyle.

-Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is co-author with Dr. Avery Faigenbaum of the new youth strength-training book, Strength and Power For Young Athletes, by Human Kinetics Publishers

 

Healthy Habits on Holiday?


HWCFDecember 2014

Has your mental calendar already flipped to January 2015 when it comes to rebooting your family’s healthy habits? Being active and healthy now can take the pressure off those looming New Year’s resolutions and even put a kick in your step when you need it during these busy days ahead.

Make your holidays merry and light using these tips from the Together Counts™ program, a great resource for active families from the Healthy Weight Commitment

  1. It’s all about energy balance! This time of year means lots of celebrations brimming with traditional meals and treats. Balance it out by starting each day with a brisk walk. When you exercise first thing in the morning, you tend to remember to balance your calories—or energy in— throughout the day.
  2. Looking for the perfect Christmas tree? Weather you like to cut your own or hunt down a deal at your local roadside stand, make it a family outing. Getting the family together for just about any outdoor activity this time of year is a reminder that being active matters.
  3. Making a big batch of holiday cookies? Look for recipes that include lots of interesting dried fruits and nuts. You’ll increase the nutrient value and give more crunch and punch to ho hum holiday treats.
  4. December 21st is Winter Solstice. It might be the shortest day of the year, but there’s time to fit a lot in! Why not organize a neighborhood caroling event? Simply plot a one mile route that works for young and old alike and keep the crowd moving and singing. Warm up afterwards with a light meal to serve a cold crowd—think healthy baked potato bar (be sure to bake some sweet potatoes too) and warm cider.
  5. Do something active and healthy for a local school! Visit TogetherCounts.com to enter the Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes. Anyone can enter on behalf of a local pre school or elementary school in need of a new playground and up to $30,000 in grant funding. Do you know a Pre-K teacher? Let her know that she could enter to win up to $20,000 for her classroom. It’s easy to enter here.

Learn more about how your family can be healthy and active at

TogetherCounts.com. Happy Healthy Holidays!

KEEPING FIT: Fitness begins at home

Recent research has shown that regular exercise participation is extremely low among all age groups, but some local schools and parents are working to change that among school-aged children.

By Wayne L. Westcott
For The Patriot Ledger

family exercising

Several years ago, I was research chairman for a national youth fitness association that was installing well-equipped exercise centers in school systems across America. When I asked Dr. Ken Cooper, the famous physician who wrote the best-selling aerobics book in 1968 that spawned a national fitness revolution, if he would join my committee he replied with a statement that shocked me. He said, “Yes, because I have almost given up on changing the lifestyles of sedentary adults. Our only hope for a healthy nation is to promote physical activity in children.” Although Dr. Cooper’s comments took me by surprise, recent research has shown that regular exercise participation is extremely low among all age groups. Based on an activity level equivalent to walking at just 2.5 miles per hour, a total of 30 minutes a day, for 5 days a week, only about 4 percent of adults, 8 percent of teens, and 40 percent of pre-adolescents actually attain this relatively small amount of exercise.

Fortunately, a determined mother Kathleen Tullie and the Reebok Foundation are making a profound, positive impact on this situation. In 2010 Kathleen developed BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success), a free before-school physical activity program that aims to get elementary school children moving in the morning and their brains ready for a day of learning. The program involves a variety of large muscle movement and exercise to address cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, joint flexibility, motor skills, dynamic balance, agility, coordination, and nutrition. Found in more than 1,200 schools across the United States, including many in the South Shore, the BOKS team provides free training and support to parent and teacher volunteers who want to get the program started in their community. My Quincy College Exercise Science colleagues and students are assessing the effectiveness of the BOKS program in the Weymouth Public School System. We have been very impressed with the 140 elementary age students who come to the Academy Avenue School almost an hour earlier than required to exercise.

If your children do not have access to BOKS, you could follow the example of my professional colleague, Doug Werner, who started a before-school home fitness program with his daughter. Through a regular protocol of walking together and performing a few basic exercises, Abbie completely changed her lifestyle and went from a very low level of physical fitness to a very high level of physical fitness. My friend documented his daughter’s progress, which led to the publication of a short but powerful book on simple home fitness training, Abbie Gets Fit, which is endorsed by ACE Fitness magazine.

With Doug’s permission, I would like to share seven of his well-conceived recommendations for adding more physical activity to your child’s lifestyle.

  1. Make time for before-school exercise by going to bed an hour earlier and getting up an hour earlier.
  2. Give your child a pedometer and set progressive goals for steps taken on a daily basis.
  3. Establish a basic daily exercise routine for the family, with input from each member.
  4. Set aside some time every weekend for family fitness outings such as hiking, bicycling, swimming, skating, etc.
  5. Set a family goal to complete a minimum number of walking or jogging events together over the course of a year.
  6. When watching a sporting event on television, take brief exercise breaks during long commercials and go outside during half-time to perform some of the game skills, such as passing, catching and running the football.
  7. When going relatively short distances such as a nearby store or a friend’s home, walk or bike rather than use the car.

Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., teaches exercise science and directs the Health and Fitness Center at Quincy College. He also consults for the South Shore YMCA, and has written 25 books on physical fitness.

Youth Fitness: Get Off on the Right Foot

September 30, 2014

By Doug Werner

walking family

Nearly two out of three boys, and one out of two girls, will play an organized sport between the ages of 5 and 18. For those who stick with it well into their teens, most will receive at least a fundamental appreciation for the need to be fit and the know-how to do so. But, what about all of the others? How and when do they learn fitness basics? Well, if your child is one of the lucky few in a school system that still offers a comprehensive physical education program, then there is a good chance that they will learn while in school. But the question is, for those children, or even children who are young ‘athletes’, do you really want to leave your child’s health and fitness to ‘chance’ or to others?

According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine, nearly 1/3 of all American children under the age of 18 are overweight or obese, and that number has grown by 10% every decade for the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, the two most common direct causes are routinely acknowledged to be consuming too many calories and too little physical activity. The nutrition challenge is not just due to the increased popularity of fast food restaurants, but also the convenience of processed foods and sugary drinks. Despite packaging requirements that now clearly detail the nutrition and caloric value of most packaged and fast foods, overweight children still tend to consume calories at a rate far exceeding their daily metabolic requirement. Compounding this problem is a disturbing physical activity trend that continues to be challenged by the popularity of sedentary activities like TV viewing, video game playing and social media interaction. Unfortunately, most schools are not helping much either, as physical education classes and recess time continue to dwindle. Need more evidence? Visit any playground or ball park after school or on a weekend to witness the lack of children in ‘free play’. And, if obesity sets in at a very young age, the likelihood of playing organized sports later decreases as well.

However, even involvement in an ‘organized sport’ is no guarantee that your child will get enough daily exercise. A typical youth sport program includes one or two practices per week plus one or two games each weekend. Most health experts agree, children need a minimum of at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day to be fit and healthy. Even if all of those sports ‘events’ are high intensity, which is rarely the case in youth sports, there is a good chance that your young athlete is not getting enough exercise on a weekly basis. Now, just imagine the challenge for all of those ‘non-athletes’!

So what’s a conscientious parent to do to insure their child grows up with a firm respect for the need to be fit and healthy? Well, like most other ‘values’ that young children learn, the earlier the better. And, of course, parental role modeling, commitment and involvement are essentials as well. But therein lays a tremendous win-win too! Daily involvement in your child’s exercise program not only helps to ensure their fitness, but it will also benefit you as well. In addition to the physical fitness rewards, there are bonding and education benefits as well, especially if you take the time to engage your child in stimulating conversation during your daily ‘workout’. And, the really good news; your workout can be as easy and inexpensive as a daily walk together!

According to The Mayo Clinic, walking, like other exercise, can help you achieve a number of important health benefits. Walking can help you:

  • Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • Raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of, or manage, type 2 diabetes
  • Manage your weight
  • Improve your mood
  • Stay strong and fit

All it takes to reap these benefits is a routine of brisk walking. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. And you can forget the “no pain, no gain” talk. Research shows that regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, such as jogging.”

Of walking, Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke of the American College of Sports Medicine says, “There are certainly many forms of cardiovascular exercise that improve health and fitness, such as running, cycling, and swimming. But, from the perspective of finding a great exercise program for the most number of people, walking is the best bang for your buck.”

If in doubt about what to do, or where to start for your child’s daily exercise, get off on the right foot and take a walk!

Doug Werner is a vice president for Glastonbury, CT based Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness and the author of ‘Abbie Gets Fit’ (available at www.abbiegetsfit.com or Amazon.com), a children’s book chronicling a true story about his nine year old daughter’s fitness transformation. He is a 35-year veteran of the fitness industry and a recipient of that industry’s Distinguished Service Award. He can be reached at doug@abbiegetsfit.com.

Physical Activity Report Card for American Kids

Chuck Corbin, Ph.D.,
Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

In 2008 the United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) appointed a committee of national experts to revise existing physical activity guidelines to include recommended amounts of physical activity for people of all ages (http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines). The guidelines for children recommended: (1) performing 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily, (2) performing daily activity that is mostly moderate or vigorous aerobic activity, (3) performing vigorous physical activity at least 3 days a week, (4) performing muscle fitness (that also builds bones) activity on at least 3 days a week, and (5) participating in age appropriate and a variety of enjoyable activities, with encouragement from family.

In 2009 a coalition of partners from a wide variety of organizations, including those from medicine, physical education, health, government, and business, prepared a National Physical Activity Plan. The plan was designed to “allow more Americans to realize the recommendations made in the 2008 activity physical activity guidelines (http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/faq.php). After the national plan was developed, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA) was formed to help carry out the plan. Last week the NPAPA, in cooperation with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) released the 2014 US Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. The Report Card uses an A-F scale (with Incomplete ratings for some areas). Here are the grades.

Overall physical activity for children and youth, Grade = D-. Only 25% of youth 12-15 meet the national guideline of 60 minutes of activity per day. On average, youth spend only 19 minutes in moderate to vigorous activity daily. Youth do, however, spend 350 minutes per day in light physical activity. Performing light activity is better than no activity, but does not provide the health benefits of moderate to vigorous activity. Younger children are more active than older youth and boys are more active than girls.

Sedentary behaviors of youth, Grade = D. Youth spend too much time sitting, often viewing a screen (e.g., computer game, phone, TV). No national guideline exists for screen time, but the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time (for youth) to 2 hours per day or less. About half of youth meet the guideline. The report indicates that there are ethnic disparities in screen time (e.g., only 37% of African Americans meet the guideline).Active Transportation, Grade = F. Most American youth do not walk or ride a bike to school and the percentage has decreased significantly in recent years.

Organized Sport Participation, Grade = C-. More than half of youth participate in an organized sport. More boys participate than girls and more children participate than teens. However, organized sport participation decreases in the teen years.

Active Play, Grade = INC. Comprehensive research evidence is not available to adequately provide a grade for active play. Slightly less than 60% of elementary school youth have an active recess. Studies show that increasing recess time increases activity time of youth.

Health-Related Physical Fitness, Grade = INC. The most recent national studies of the fitness of American youth were done in the mid 1980s. So it is impossible to rate the current health-related fitness of our youth. A recent report of the Institute of Medicine provides evidence that good fitness is associated with good health in youth and is associated with improved academic performance.

Family and Peers, Grade = INC. We know that children with active parents are 6 times more likely to be active than children of non-active parents. Most parents say they encourage activity for their kids, however less than half say they are active with their kids. Having active friends is associated with being active. More research is needed before a grade can be assigned.

School, Grade = C-. Most youth go to school so school provides a great opportunity for youth to be active. Kids who take PE are more likely to meet national activity guidelines and to have good health-related fitness than those who don’t. Elementary school kids are more likely to have PE, than secondary school youth. When PE is taught by a certified PE teacher youth activity is increased. Nevertheless, untrained teachers frequently “teach” PE. PE has decreased in recent years in many schools including those in our area.

Community and the Built Environment, Grade = B-. Kids who can play outdoors safely are more active than those who can’t. A large majority of youth (85%) have a park or playground in their neighborhood; a factor that can lead to greater outdoor play. Disparities in neighborhoods exist, however, and the safety of parks and playgrounds is not always a certainty.

Government Strategies and Investments, Grade = INC. A number of governmental programs have been ongoing for years (e.g., President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition) and other have recently been developed (e.g., Get Active, Let’s Move). Time is necessary to determine program effectiveness.As the report indicates, the U. S. Physical Activity Report Card for Kids is not particularly impressive. There is work to be done if our youth are to be active and fit. There is much that we can do as individuals, parents, and as community members to improve the next report card.

More information is available at: http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/reportcard.php

Dr. Corbin is the author of more than one hundred books and 200 articles on fitness, health, and wellness. He was the first chair of the Science Board of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) and was a charter advisor for FITNESSGRAM®, the national youth fitness test. He is a fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine and an Honor Fellow of the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America). He is a regular columnist for the Ahwatukee Foothills News in Phoenix, AZ.

Reprinted from the Ahwatukee Foothills News (June 2014), Phoenix, AZ (with permission).

The Childhood Obesity Time Bomb

July 16, 2014

By Doug Werner

Childhood obesity, ‘The Major Global Health Problem of Our Time’, reported the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an editorial dated July, 2009. ‘Medical Profession united in fight to defuse obesity time-bomb’ exclaimed the UK’s Academy of Medical Royal Colleges while recently introducing a nationwide campaign to fight ‘the single greatest public health threat in the UK – rising levels of child and adult obesity’. According to the World Health Organization, ‘Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. The prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. Globally, in 2010 the number of overweight children under the age of five is estimated to be over 42 million. Close to 35 million of these are living in developing countries.’

Why all the panic? It’s arguable that no other medical condition wreaks as much havoc on the human mind and body as obesity. This is not just a condition that can lead to a host of deadly diseases; it also comes with deep psychological, sociological and financial cost. Among the chronic physical conditions and diseases that are known to result from obesity is diabetes II, several cancers; including breast, colorectal and pancreatic, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, asthma, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. A recent study published in Pediatrics indicates that obesity may actually contribute to the risk of autism in the unborn children of obese women. Known debilitating mental health consequences include depression, poor self-esteem and low self-confidence. Sadly, obese children often suffer from humiliating social isolation, bullying and discrimination.

Reuters recently reported that the medical costs directly related to obesity are now nearly $190 billion per year in the US, or nearly 10% of all healthcare costs. A Mayo Clinic study indicated that overweight employees, those with a BMI of 40 or higher, averaged nearly $5,500 more per year in medical costs than those below a BMI of 40. Indirect and hidden costs associated with obesity include billions in lost productivity, absenteeism, customized furniture, fixtures and equipment. Absurdly, additional fuel required to transport obese passengers in automobiles, buses and planes is estimated to be over $10 billion per year.

Yes, there is no denying it; we are in the grips of a global health crisis with human and financial costs that are destined to rival any epidemic known to mankind. Yet, despite all of the indisputable data and visible evidence, this is an epidemic that has grown from an incident rate of 13% to 34% over the last 50 years. In 2007, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated that ‘if the rate of obesity and overweight continues at this pace, by 2015, 75 percent of adults and nearly 24 percent of U.S. children and adolescents will be overweight or obese.’ The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is even less optimistic and estimates that 50% of all UK children will be obese or overweight by 2020.

Not surprisingly, the two most common direct causes are routinely acknowledged to be consuming too many calories and too little physical activity. The nutrition challenge is not just due to the increased popularity of fast food restaurants, but also the convenience of processed foods and sugary drinks. Despite packaging requirements that now clearly detail the nutrition and caloric value of most packaged and fast foods, overweight children still tend to consume calories at a rate far exceeding their daily metabolic requirement. Compounding this problem is a disturbing physical activity trend that continues to be challenged by the popularity of sedentary activities like TV viewing, video game playing and social media interaction. Unfortunately, most schools are not helping much either, as physical education classes and recess time continue to dwindle. Need more evidence? Visit any playground or ball park after school or on a weekend to witness the lack of children in ‘free play’. And, if obesity sets in at a very young age, the likelihood of playing organized sports later decreases as well.

What is the answer to reversing this disturbing childhood obesity trend? Well, there are many obvious answers derived from most of the lifestyle causes, such as eat less and exercise more. However, what most behavioral answers have in common for childhood obesity is the need for parent or guardian intervention. Not just parent awareness and leadership, but parent involvement! That challenge is exasperated by the fact that many obese and sedentary children also have one or more obese and/or sedentary parents. But therein lays the remarkable win-win too! Although some parents have legitimate reasons for not exercising themselves, for those who are capable, exercising for at least 30 minutes per day with your overweight child can provide not only tremendous physical and mental health benefits for parent and child, but also a bonding experience which is hard to replicate. Where to start? Here is the really good news; most experts agree that for safe, efficient and effective cardiovascular exercise, nothing beats a nice, brisk walk! Done hand in hand, few things can bring parent and child closer together.

Doug Werner is the author of ‘Abbie Gets Fit’, a children’s book chronicling a true story about his nine year old daughter’s fitness transformation. He is a 35-year veteran of the fitness industry and a recipient of that industry’s Distinguished Service Award. He is currently a vice president for Glastonbury, CT based Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness. He can be reached at doug@abbiegetsfit.com.

The Power of Parenting: 10 tips to get your child off the couch and fit this summer!

June 20, 2014

By Doug Werner

kids fitness

kids fitness

According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine, nearly 1/3 of all American children under the age of 18 are overweight or obese, and that number has grown by 10% every decade for the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, the two most common direct causes are routinely acknowledged to be consuming too many calories and/or too little physical activity. A disturbing trend in declining physical activity has been driven by the popularity of sedentary activities such as TV viewing, video game playing and social media interaction. Unfortunately, most schools are not helping much either, as physical education classes and recess time continue to dwindle. Need more evidence? Visit any playground or ball park after school or on a weekend to witness the lack of children in ‘free play’.

So what’s a conscientious parent to do to insure their child grows up with a firm respect for the need to be fit and healthy? Well, like most other values that children learn, the earlier the better. And, of course, parental role modeling, commitment and involvement are essentials as well. But therein lays a tremendous win-win too! Daily involvement in your child’s exercise program not only helps to improve their health and fitness, but it will also benefit you. And, in addition to the obvious physical fitness rewards, there are significant bonding benefits as well. Here are ten ways to promote exercise within your family.

  1. No time to exercise? Cut out at least one hour of TV each night, go to bed an hour earlier and get up an hour earlier – the average child in America watches 25 hours of TV per week – their parents are watching nearly 35 hours per week – watch less and exercise more!
  2. Buy each member of your family an inexpensive pedometer and set a daily goal of 10,000 steps or more per person (less for younger children) – make this fun by encouraging competition and offering fun awards for daily, weekly or monthly achievement.
  3. Establish a daily exercise ‘routine’ for each member of your family that is scheduled and non-negotiable – make this fun for your children by allowing them to help choose their designated time and activity and to ‘track’ their results on a calendar.
  4. Establish a regular weekend routine that includes family hikes, jogs, bike rides, paddling or swimming – make this fun for your children by choosing a different destination or activity each weekend.
  5. Set a family goal to complete a minimum number of ‘walk/run’ events together each year – make this fun by occasionally choosing events in family friendly areas that are new to your family.
  6. Watching a long TV movie or sporting event together? Use the ‘pause’ button to take an ‘exercise break’ or to get outside and simulate the game you’re watching.
  7. Use the car less and your feet more – whenever possible, walk, bike or jog instead of ride – don’t let your children get ‘hooked’ on motorized transportation. If you do need to drive, park as far as safely possible from your destination – don’t send the wrong message to your children by lazily cruising parking lots looking for spaces ‘near the door’.
  8. On long trips; build in walks, hikes or jogs along the way – use a map to find safe and convenient pedestrian areas or parks along your route – a great way to improve your sightseeing experience as well.
  9. Join a family friendly fitness center or YMCA – there are nearly 40,000 health clubs and YMCAs in America and most offer a wide variety of affordable exercise options for families – go to http://www.healthclubs.com or http://www.ymca.net to find a club or Y near you.
  10. Not sure where to start…take a walk! Of walking, Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke of the American College of Sports Medicine says, “There are certainly many forms of cardiovascular exercise that improve health and fitness, such as running, cycling, and swimming. But, from the perspective of finding a great exercise program for the most number of people, walking is the best bang for your buck.” And, done with your child, walking provides a wonderful bonding experience as well.

Doug Werner is a vice president for Glastonbury, CT based Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness, a parent of two teenage children and the author of ‘Abbie Gets Fit’, the critically acclaimed children’s book chronicling a true story about one nine year old girl’s journey to get fit with Doug…her dad. He is a member of The American College of Sports Medicine, a 35-year veteran of the fitness industry and a recipient of that industry’s Distinguished Service Award. He can be reached at doug@abbiegetsfit.com. ‘Abbie Gets Fit’ is available at www.abbiegetsfit.com or www.amazon.com.