It’s no secret that chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer are on the rise due to our increasingly inactive lifestyles. To help combat it, we need to build good exercise habits when we’re young and keep them far into our older years. Here’s a look at how we can fight the issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle from birth to adolescence.
Obesity Australia warned that overweight, pregnant women who feed their children high carbohydrate and high sugar diets in their first three years of life can increase their child’s risk of becoming overweight. The first four years of life (including pregnancy) are crucial in combating obesity because they define the set-points for hunger and satiety in a child for its entire life, explained the Obesity Australia chief, Professor John Funder. As for exercise, infants (birth to one year) should participate in supervised floor-based play on a regular basis.
Toddlers (1-3 years old) are getting less time running around the back yard and more time inside in front of televisions, tablets and smartphones. Even when they get taken on trips to the supermarket or for a walk’ to a cafe, you’re more likely to see toddlers in strollers or sitting in shopping trolleys. It’s understandable that parents don’t want the added task of keeping their toddler from running away but when you consider that a child may be sitting at home, then sitting in the car, only to sit down again in the shopping centre or cafe – there is far too much sitting time! Australia’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that toddlers get at least three hours of activity a day and aren’t kept inactive or restrained for more than an hour at a time – except for naps.
When it comes to school aged children (5-12 years old), children need an hour of moderate to vigorous intense physical activity a day. Activities need to vary between aerobic exercise and strength building exercise. Unfortunately, school life incorporates many hours of sitting when you consider children going from the bus to the classroom and back home again. Even the playground isn’t as active as it used to be, with lunchtime sport and play equipment banned in some schools because of safety concerns. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines, some of the best activities for building strong muscles and bones in younger children include climbing, hopscotch, dance, gymnastics and martial arts, so after school sports is a must!
It might not be easy to motivate teenagers to get out and start exercising, but if the expectation is set early on in life then they should already be motivated! Being involved in competitive sports and social teams can be particularly useful to keep adolescents interested, and they should aim for at least an hour of physical activity a day.
Chances are that if you can get your children interested in sport and fitness from an early age they will take these interests far into adulthood and continue to live long and healthy lives. Furthermore, childhood and adolescence are prime time for bone growth, so exercise will aid bone health into adulthood, which is essential for when bone loss begins after 40.
Personal Trainers can play an important role in the health of our youth by encouraging good habits in adults and telling parents to pass on their newfound nutrition and exercise tips to their children. Even better, consider specialising in youth training and offer group youth or family sessions.