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Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
If your morning routine is anything like my family’s, it’s all you can manage to get everyone dressed, fed, and ready on time (we won’t even mention the endless fights over bathroom time). So the idea of fitting in exercise before school seems a bit farfetched.
But it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds—at least for your kids—thanks to BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success). This before-school fitness program, started five years ago by Massachusetts mom Kathleen Tullie, is now offered at 1,075 elementary and middle schools. And yours could be next.
The beauty of the program (and a primary appeal to administrators) is that BOKS is free. It’s run by parents, teachers, phys. ed. instructors—anyone who believes in the cause of helping kids get more activity. The nonprofit provides training tips and suggested weekly curriculums, which include a warm up, running-related activities (including relay races and obstacle courses), a skill of the week (whether it’s sit-ups, jump rope, or jumping jacks), games, and a cool down/nutrition talk. It’s designed to last 45 minutes and to be held two to three mornings a week, though it can be tailored to meet an individual school’s time and space limitations.
One hardly needs to make a case for why kids need more exercise. There’s a reason why September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 18 percent of children are obese, and that may be undercounting by 25 percent. The number has grown by a startling 500 percent since 1974. While eating habits are a large part of the problem, so is an overall lack of activity. Kids aren’t getting close to the recommended hour per day of exercise, and they’re getting less exercise at school than ever. Third graders average just 69 minutes per week of gym class. And recess has largely become a thing of the past, robbing kids of yet another opportunity to get moving.
But the issue isn’t just about their waistlines. It’s also about their brains. Regular physical activity is associated with higher academic achievement. Kids who are physically fit outperform those who aren’t on reading and math tests. And exercising right before school seems to activate their brain and enhance their ability to focus, a clear win-win.
If this sounds like something your school (and your kids) could use, get moving—and fast. Through October 15, Reebok and the Reebok Foundation are awarding $1,000 grants to up to 300 schools to help implement the program. The funds can be used toward T-shirts, equipment, trainer stipends, and more. Find out more here, and then have your school’s administrator or PTA head enroll here. It might mean a little more rushing than usual in the morning, but your kids’ bodies and brains will thank you.
Photo courtesy of BOKS
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activity at school, BOKS, Building Our Kids' Success, exercise, improved focus, obesity | Categories:
Big Kids, Child Development, Education, Health, Must Read, The Parents Perspective
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
Obesity affects at least 18 percent of all children in the United States—triple the rate of a generation ago. While much of the focus has been on the poor dietary habits of our kids, the truth is that exercise (or lack thereof) is just as big a factor. Most kids don’t come close to the 60-minutes-a-day ideal for exercise, and schools aren’t helping much. As we reported, third graders average just 69 minutes per week of gym class, a fraction of the 150 recommended for that age group. Factor in the absence of recess in our testing-crazed academic environment, the increased time demands of homework, and children’s obsession (like ours) with all things electronic, and it’s little wonder they’re falling short—and getting bigger.
So as we embark on National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s nice to know that some organizations are taking an active approach to the problem. On Monday, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) held a youth tennis exhibition prior to that day’s action at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. The purpose was to highlight the organization’s youth tennis initiative, 10 and Under Tennis, which shortens the court and lessens the bounce (via softer, spongier balls) for kids starting with the game.
The USTA has installed more than 13,000 youth-sized courts around the country and now holds all officially sanctioned tournaments for kids under 10 on them. It’s an investment in the future of the game that helped boost youth participation by 12 percent last year—and, more important, has made a difficult, highly skilled game easier for kids to feel successful.
The demonstration featured former boxing champ, health expert, and mom Laila Ali (pictured above, with a group of budding players). Ali, who dabbled in tennis as a kid before following in the pugilistic footsteps of her legendary father, Muhammad Ali, has rekindled her love for the game and plans to build a youth-sized court in her driveway for her kids, who are 6 and 3.
The exhibition also kicked off more than 1,000 free “play tennis” events for kids and families being held throughout the country this month. You can find one in your area here. I highly recommend giving it a try—your child is far more likely to play if you do.
The USTA is also a presenting sponsor of Nickelodeon’s 11th annual Worldwide Day of Play, which takes place in San Diego, Detroit, and a third city to be named (it’s being chosen via an online contest). It will feature a host of sports and activities—from football to dancing to double dutch. Perhaps most significantly, the station will suspend programming from 12pm to 3pm (that’s right—no SpongeBob for three whole hours!) in order to encourage kids to go outside and get active. It’s a fun event and a great cause, so don’t just read about it. Grab a racquet, a basketball, or your sports gear of choice, and go do something active with your kids. Their healthy future depends on it.
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10 and Under Tennis, exercise, free tennis events, Laila Ali, obesity, Worldwide Day of Play | Categories:
Big Kids, Health, Must Read, News, Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
Even the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were shocked: The number of children ages 2 to 5 who are obese has decreased by 43 percent, according to the latest large government study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2004, 14 percent of preschoolers had a weight problem, and the rate was only 8 percent in 2012. Experts believe that the drop may be related to the fact that more moms are breastfeeding (which helps babies learn to listen to their own hunger and fullness cues) and young kids are not drinking as many sugary beverages.
This is particularly great news because preventing a weight problem is obviously much easier than dealing with one. Children who are overweight or obese at age 3 to 5 are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults. It is certainly possible to help older kids slim down or at least slow their weight gain—especially when the whole family gets on board. But for parents of young children, the key is get into good habits and stick with them. You’ve heard plenty about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables and being active, but also keep these three tips in mind:
Pour water. Make it the primary thirst-quencher in your family, rather than juice or soda. Of course, milk is important too. But avoid letting your toddler tote around a bottle or sippy cup filled with anything.
Just go outside. We are all struggling with the lure of screens. When kids get fresh air, they are naturally energized and eager to move around more. Even when it’s cold.
Don’t use food as a mood-booster. I have been guilty of doing this with my own kids. However, if children learn to seek out chocolate or cookies or pretzels when they’re hurt or frustrated, they may do it throughout their life. Instead of offering a snack to distract your child, offer to play catch or join in the pretend-play game of her choice.
Use our Food and Recipe Guide to find quick and healthy meal ideas for your family.
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Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
I find it hard to resist any opportunity to talk about my favorite sport. And while we’re still buried in a once-in-a-generation winter of snow and cold in the Northeast, tennis is about to make some big news. Not among the pros, where the action won’t heat up again for several months, but at the recreational level—which is far more important for its future.
Never have the ranks of top U.S. players been so slim: Serena Williams, dominant though she still is at 32, is our lone bona fide Grand Slam contender (though Sloane Stephens could well join her soon). No American man has won a major title since Andy Roddick in 2003. Unlike many other countries, we aren’t drawing the best athletes to the sport and aren’t keeping them.
Recognizing the problem, the USTA is wisely focusing its efforts on the grass-roots level. The goal: Get more kids to give the game a chance, and help them be successful and have fun from the beginning so they stick with it. That’s what World Tennis Day is all about. On Sunday morning at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (site of the U.S. Open), the USTA will attempt the world’s largest tennis lesson, featuring more than 250 children (as young as age 4) from local youth organizations. If successful, there will be a special presentation ceremony Monday evening with the Guinness Book of World Records at Madison Square Garden prior to a singles match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The night’s biggest entertainment, though, could well be the sibling matchup between U.S. champions past (Patrick and John McEnroe) and current (Bob and Mike Bryan).
This isn’t a mere publicity stunt. The USTA is truly investing in the game. It has launched 10 and Under Tennis and built more than 10,000 kid-size courts that make the game easier to learn (especially when played with slower, lower-bouncing balls). It offered 1,400 free opportunities for kids to pick up a racquet last year and partnered with FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. The organization has committed to installing 5,000 additional kiddie courts and training 15,000 new youth coaches, trainers, and volunteers during the next three years. These efforts are already paying dividends. Tennis participation is at its highest level in three years and, notably, has increased by 13 percent among kids 6 to 11. The goal is to attract a new generation of fans and lifetime players. Maybe one of them will be the next Serena. Maybe not. But these moves have tennis back on the right track.
Want to get your child started in this great game (as I did my son, who will be beating me before long)? The USTA is hosting events for kids and families (many of them free) around the country throughout March. Find one one near you here. While you’re at it, why not pick up the perfect junior racquet and outfit for your child.
Young girl having fun on tennis court via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
This past weekend marked not only the end of summer, but the start of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. As we all know, childhood obesity is a growing problem in our country, caused by factors such as poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Over Labor Day weekend, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) held an event to reveal that the physical inactivity of our youth has become a public health epidemic that they intend to help resolve.
Currently in the midst of the second week of competition for the U.S. Open tennis championships in Flushing, New York, the USTA also capitalizes on the tournament as a way to bring tennis to America, specifically our youth. The USTA has partnered with over a dozen organizations, including Partnership For A Healthier America, the Clinton Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, to get our kids active.
“Physical inactivity is estimated in 2009 to have killed about 5.3 million people due to chronic diseases across the world,” said Bill Kohl, Professor of Epidemiology and Kinesiology at the University of Texas and Founder and Director of University of Texas Physical Activity Epidemiology Program. According to Kohl, 80 percent of children around the world are not getting enough exercise for optimal health and it’s time to do something about it. After all, this generation of children is expected to live five years less than their parents.
Physical inactivity is a huge contributing factor to this calculation. “We as adults have engineered the opportunities for physical activity out of daily life—engineered this to a point where [kids] are sedentary and not physically active,” said Kohl. The recommendation from the CDC is that kids participate in 60 minutes of physical activity each day and, according to Kohl, even the best of physical education programs in schools are only able to provide a quarter of that.
The USTA has focused its energies on making tennis a more accessible sport for young players so they can get the exercise they need. “The primary reasons that kids are going to play sports is because it’s fun,” said USTA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alexis Colvin. The USTA has worked hard over the past year to develop what they are calling “ten and under tennis”—tennis for young kids using equipment and rules tailored to their size and experience to make the sport more fun to learn. Softer balls, smaller courts, lighter racquets and the elimination of rankings and tournaments for the under-10 age bracket are all part of the reformation.
“Can you imagine we had four-foot tall kids playing with the same ball and racquet as Roger Federer?” said Sue Hunt, USTA Chief Marketing Officer. “We’ve changed the game and it’s fun to play now.” Fun is what will keep kids engaged throughout their lives, keeping physical activity up and health benefits with it. The USTA also hopes to be a model for other sports so that children will become lifelong (but not necessarily professional) athletes.
Bob Harper, fitness expert and training extraordinaire of The Biggest Loser, seconds that. “The last thing I would want to see is a child in a gym on a treadmill,” he said. “What I want to see is the parents taking their kids on a weekend getaway of hiking and biking.” Making exercise fun truly begins at home. “We have to get our parents, not only getting our kids to be more active, but they need to be more active because our children watch what we do.”
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