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The percentage of overweight children in this country is growing at an alarming rate. Here are some things you can do to keep your kids healthy and fit.

The percentage of overweight children in this country is growing at an alarming rate. Here are some things you can do to keep your kids healthy and fit.

Children playing and keeping active

Mark Martinez/The Orange County Register


he Surgeon General says that today's kids are in the worst shape of any generation. He blames this trend on junk food, TV and lack of exercise! The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate. Today, 10% of two- to five-year-olds and more than 15% of children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight. Since the 1970s, the percentage of overweight kids and adolescents in the United States has more than doubled. If you combine the percentage of kids who are overweight with the percentage of kids who are at risk of becoming overweight, about one out of three children are affected. Overweight children are at risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- all once considered exclusively adult diseases. Type 2 diabetes, which was once called adult-onset diabetes because it rarely occurred before middle age, is affecting more and more children, some as young as six years old. Last year we learned that 25% of obese children under 10 years of age have diabetes or pre-diabetes and up to 3% of children are pre-diabetic or diabetic.

Physical education in schools can help kids get up and moving, but more and more schools are cutting physical education programs altogether or cutting down on the amount of time spent actually doing fitness-building physical activities. One study showed that gym classes offered third-graders just 25 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

Most children need at least an hour of physical activity every day. Regular exercise helps children:
? Feel less stressed
? Feel better about themselves
? Feel more ready to learn in school
? Keep a healthy weight
? Build and keep healthy bones, muscles and joints
? Sleep better at night

Additionally, regular exercise will reduce the chances of our children getting diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Encourage children to be physically active every day, whether it's through an organized sports team or a pick-up game of soccer during recess. If they are not into organized sports, suggest intramural programs, fitness classes such as yoga or Pilates, or alternative sports like skateboarding, inline skating or mountain biking. Encourage your children to try a variety of activities. Don't force any one sport or activity and help them find what they enjoy and then support them in their efforts. Keep your kids active at home, too, through everyday activities like walking and playing in the yard.

And, cut down on TV, computer and video game time, and discourage eating while watching the tube. Serve a variety of healthy foods and eat meals together as often as possible. Try to include five servings of fruits and vegetables in their diet every day, plan healthy snacks and encourage your kids to eat a large healthy breakfast every morning.

If you as a parent eat well and exercise regularly, incorporating healthy habits into your family's daily life, you're modeling a healthy lifestyle for your children that could last into adulthood.

Gerry Halverson is a strength and conditioning specialist and a personal fitness coach at Newport Workout in Newport Beach. He can be reached at (949) 290-5427.

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