Parents Lead the Way with Physical Fitness
Fit Family Fun Day Stresses Making an Active Lifestyle a Habit in the Home and Outside
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, fitness specialists here contend.
More than 17 percent of Americans, ages 2 to 19, are overweight and more than 32 percent of adults are obese, according to a National Center for Health Statistics survey from 2004, the government's most recent data.
And overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of being overweight or obese as adults, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Obesity is an epidemic in the Unites States, no doubt," Neil A. Roberts, the Marine Corps Community Services Health Promotions fitness director, said Saturday at the MCCS-sponsored Fit Family Fun Day at the Camp Foster Field House.
Parents can protect their children from that epidemic, Roberts said, pointing out that kids learn their physical fitness and eating behaviors from their parents.
Let's Get Physical
In a military community where physical training is the focus, kids should be learning the right habits, but that isn't always happening, Roberts said.
Too often, he believes, military parents schedule their physical training at work. Then, when they come home, he said, all they want to do is get comfortable, relax and watch TV.
"There's a disconnect from PT. They don't walk with their kids or ride bikes" or share any kind of physical activity, Roberts said, adding that those parents are passing on the attitude that "physical fitness isn't fun."
Organized sports are a good way to get children active, but something as simple as riding bikes, going to the park, playing Frisbee or walking to a nearby shoppette instead of driving also works, he said.
"With gas the way it is, it's better to walk anyway," Roberts said.
Jamie McCabe, an MCCS fitness coordinator who also runs the Kids Get Fit Club at Bechtel Elementary School on Camp McTureous, recommends parents vary physical activities so children don't get bored.
All children aren't the same, so parents have to find the activities that will stimulate their interests, she said.
That's what they hoped to teach at the Fit Family Fun Day - activities that involve the whole family, Roberts said. A relay race, basketball hoop shoot and other games required parents and kids to play together.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Reed, who was at the event with her children, pointed to another benefit of keeping kids active: They're worn out and ready for a nap when they get home.
Beware of Fast Food
Roberts stressed that parents should teach healthful eating habits.
"Fast food used to be a treat," he said. "Now, McDonald's is our national food. But it's not good food, even as a treat."
However, fast food is all right every other week or so, but even then, make healthy decisions, Roberts advised. Select the milk or juice option, instead of the soda or shake, and choose healthy portions, he said.
And instead of that double-meat burger packed with 1,000 calories, go with the children's meal. That is a more normal serving size, he suggested.
Most fast-food restaurants post the nutritional value of their food on their Web sites, Roberts said, so customers and parents may use them to make informed food decisions.
Determining if a person is overweight or obese is done by calculating body-mass index, which measures height and weight. Parents who are concerned their children are overweight or obese can get them assessed at a fitness center or should discuss the matter with their doctor, Roberts said.
"It's up to the parents to teach their kids to be healthy," he said.
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