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Last week the results of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics disproved the belief held by many parents that playing “active” video games like Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution could increase their kids’ activity levels. However, before you throw away your Wii Fit systems and go back to the drawing board, let’s take a look at the study to determine whether video game fitness really is too good to be true.
All parents want what’s best for their kids. They want them to be the smartest in the class, or the fastest on the team. They give them time, money, support, encouragement, and love, all to help them be the best they can be. For many families, this is especially true when it comes to fitness and sports.
But before plowing into hours of practices and training sessions with spring sports right around the corner, it’s important for parents to ask themselves, “Are my kids working out too much, or not enough?”
According to research done at the University of Michigan, exercise is key to combating the obesity epidemic, especially in a nation where 15% of all children are estimated to be overweight. However, it’s also possible to push kids so hard in organized activities and athletics that they run the risk of injury and mental/emotional fatigue.
So, how do we determine what’s really best for kids?
Existing research isn’t too much help here. Many studies have been done on childhood fitness, and many sets of guidelines have been published. According to Harold Kohl, an epidemiologist from the University of Texas, there are at least 27 sets of official guidelines from various organizations without a lot of data to back them up.
For example, we don’t know why 60 minutes is more sufficient than 30 or 45, how play time or unorganized activity fits into the picture, or how individual differences impact the results. Fortunately, the experts do agree on a few things:
So what does this mean for families? Children spend a lot of time being told what to do by parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Maybe it’s time to include our children in the decision-making process, and in turn, teach our kids to listen to their own bodies.
Whether they choose to participate in organized athletics or unorganized activity (“just play”), they stand to gain the benefits of building and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, without risking physical or emotional burnout. Activity can contribute fun, creativity, new skills, teamwork, and personal fulfillment to a child’s life.
And if “the single best activity you do is the one you will do”, let’s allow our kids to choose how to become the best, healthiest, and happiest, they can be.
What sports and activities do your kids enjoy most?
Why do we care about trends? Researchers study them, writers report them, teachers teach them, and tweeters tweet them. Although there are many advantages to being “in the know,” one of the most important reasons to pay attention to trends is that they can help us prepare for and adapt to changes ahead.
Over the past six years, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has identified trends in the fitness industry with their ”Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends” (you can view the full 2012 survey text here). Come January 1, some of the most popular resolutions will be health- and fitness-related, so let’s get a jump on meeting our goals by looking at what the 2012 fitness trends mean for us.
Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals are the core of a rapidly expanding industry. In spite of tough economic times, consumers still place a lot of value in getting and staying healthy. The fitness industry has responded to this need by employing qualified trainers and instructors.
What does that mean for you? You can breathe a little easier knowing that you can trust your fitness professionals to lead you in safe and effective workouts, helping you reach your goals faster and giving you more bang for your buck.
Strength training is here to stay. Having been near the top of the trends list for several years, strength training is the first training “type” on the trends list, accompanied by personal, core, functional, and group training.
What does that mean for you? Since most of us sit at a desk all day, adding a little weight-bearing exercise such as resistance training can help improve our energy levels, mood, and overall functionality. Expect fitness centers to continue to update equipment and training options to facilitate strength-training programs that meet the needs of all types of exercisers – a stronger body is yours for the taking!
No one will be left behind. Training options are becoming more population-specific, with new programs being tailored to the aging Baby Boomer population and the fight against childhood obesity (just to name a few). Your fitness professionals are trained specifically to work with a variety of individuals from athletes to people fighting obesity or other diseases.
What does that mean for you? The fitness industry is actively trying to meet you where you are to help you get the most you can out of an exercise program, regardless of your goals or fitness level. In other words, you don’t have to start off looking like Jane Fonda to make exercise a part of your life.
It’s all about energy. Zumba, boot camp, and spinning are growing in popularity. These group classes are high-energy and fun, and put the emphasis on pushing your physical limits.
What does that mean for you?Releasing stress through dancing, high-intensity training, and cycling will leave you feeling strong, accomplished, and ready to tackle life’s challenges. You just have to be willing to give them a try. And although not “trending” anymore, Pilates fans shouldn’t be worried that their favorite class is going to disappear; only time will tell whether these new arrivals and old favorites will continue on as actual trends rather than fads.
The key this year is to work with Midtown to customize a fitness program that will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuventated, and (hopefully) like you had a darn good time.
Now that you know what’s to come in 2012, it’s time to use this information to start doing something that will work for you.
Your 2012 motto shouldn’t be “once I meet my goal, I’ll be happy.” Instead, how about you take a chance on what the industry is giving you and say “it’s time to give myself knowledge, revitalizing energy, and a sense of accomplishment, and add some more fun to my fitness routine.” Now that’s a reason to work out today.
What do you think of these trends? Have you already tried any of these fitness programs or plan to in 2012? What are you going to do differently in your workout routine this year?
My younger sisters from my dad’s second marriage were heavily involved with dance as young children. As the proud big sister, I dutifully ended each recital.
The two-year-olds were consistently adorable. There was always one guaranteed on-stage tantrum. The costumes were cute (if a bit cotillion-esque). The music was standard kiddie-tune fare. The dance moves were simple and age-appropriate.MORE
A childhood illness kept me indoors for most of my elementary school years. I read. I wrote stories. But I missed the chance to experience the thrill, camaraderie, and teamwork of organized sports.
As a mom, I want for my children what I missed. And because “Midtown” and “Tennis” go together like “Snow” and “Rochester,” I thought this would be the perfect place to start their experience with sports.
In September, my four-year-old daughter entered the phenomenal Junior Tennis program. Peggy Schuster coached her Level 7 group lessons, designed for the preschool set.
Her nine-week lesson experience was, in a word, awesome. So much so that she’s now several weeks into another session of lessons.
Want to know why her lessons rocked?
Here are 7 Things You Need to Know About Level 7 Tennis at Midtown
1. The Lessons are 110% Designed Around Fun
Don’t get me wrong. The kids are learning the fundamentals of the game, including how to hold the racket, the different parts of the court, and how to correctly position their fidgety little bodies, but everything Coach Peggy does with the kids is centered around them having a blast. The drills have kid-friendly names, incorporate fun props like plastic dome hats to help with balance and cones for catching balls. The lessons are designed to teach kids how to play via a series of creative games.
2. Peggy Schuster has the Patience of a Saint
Trust me on this one. I’m Catholic and I know my saints. Level 7 tennis is for 3-and-4-year-olds, hardly the most attentive, easily directed, and focused age group to work with. But Peggy is the picture of patience. Sometimes the kids, my daughter included, are silly, goofy, and distracted. Peggy never loses her cool, talks to them on their level, and through some form of magical tennis pro power is able to bring them back into the lesson with a smoothness and ease she should package onto a DVD and sell for $29.99 to parents of preschoolers everywhere.
3. Your Child is Made to Feel Important and Safe
My daughter had a great start to her lessons. She went to the first two excited, happy, and fully engaged. And then something went awry in her little brain.
Suddenly, she no longer wanted to go to her lessons. She cried after walking onto the court for the third lesson. We had to leave. She refused to get into the car to go to her fourth lesson. She never gave a reason for not wanting to go. After a two-week hiatus, she agreed to return.
Coach Peggy welcomed her back. She placed a mesh dot used in some of the drills in one corner of the court and told my daughter that that was her safe place. If she was worried or felt sad, she could go to that dot and feel safe. She never needed to use the dot, but the special attention Coach Peggy paid my daughter made a difference. She finished out the remaining five weeks of lessons without feeling upset again.
4. Lots of Effort is Invested in Planning the Lessons
My daughter is only four, so I don’t yet have a lot of experience with organized sports lessons or practices. But if they’re all organized and executed like the junior tennis lessons at the club, I would be thrilled. It’s obvious that Peggy invests a lot of time into planning the lessons. The energy level is always high. The kids are constantly moving, and one game or drill is always followed quickly by the next, to minimize distraction and keep the kids engaged.
5. Creative Drills Turn Lessons Into Games
All the warm-up activities and drills have great names such as “Sharks in the Water,” a balance drill where rackets placed in center court are the “sharks” and the kids follow Coach Peggy along the lines with small plastic domes on their heads and attempt to stay out of the “water”). Other fun drills include “Lobster Claws,” “Cleaning House,” and “Spaghetti and Meatballs.”
The kids also run obstacle courses designed to practice split steps and correct body positioning.
6. Teamwork is Tops
While my daughter has attended camps and classes before, this is her first foray into sports lessons. Coach Peggy places a lot of emphasis on teamwork, a new concept for my four-year-old. The kids are often paired together for drills, they gather in a group to go over new games, and they always form a team huddle together at the end of each lesson, where the kids place their hands in a pile, one kid chooses “the word of the day,” and they shout, ”1-2-3 snowflakes” (or “ice cream” or “Superman”, etc.).
7. Your Child Will Improve
I will admit to being a skeptic about this one. My daughter would much rather glue macaroni to sheets of construction paper than race her bike down the street. She was not enrolled in Soccer for Babies. She’s not a natural athlete.
But she’s now able to hit the ball on a bounce. She can engage in a short rally with another player, and she knows the “ready” position. Her balance and agility are greater than when she started, and she’s able to keep her body positioned correctly most of the time. I can’t wait to see what she’ll learn next.
I am very impressed with what my daughter has experienced in her lessons. It’s easy to see why Junior Tennis at Midtown is so popular. It’s a professional, creative, well-run program designed to encourage interest in a great sport. Peggy Schuster is amazing with the kids, and my daughter adores her, often bringing her pictures she’s drawn for her.
I could not have asked for a better first experience with sports for my preschooler.
Do you have kids enrolled in Junior Tennis at Midtown? What do you think of the program?
My daughter, who turns four next week, has kept active this summer by scaling rock walls at various playgrounds, riding her bike around our neighborhood, doing “sprints” in our backyard (she wants to run like her mommy someday), and pummeling her younger brother and sister when their teeth get too close to her limbs.
Some of her peers to the North, however, are finding more “non-traditional” ways to exercise.
Tweens and children as young as five are taking pole-dancing classes at a studio in Ottawa.
Oh, and the studio offers kids birthday parties too.
The media has extolled the physical and psychological benefits of pole-dancing for a few years now. Not just for strippers anymore, poll dancing can help women lose weight, tone the tummy, and embrace their inner sexpot, which helps their relationships.
It’s not something I would feel comfortable doing (13 years of Catholic school education will do that to you), but hey, if you’re an adult and looking for a fun group exercise class, I say, go for it.
But for me, there’s something deeply disturbing about young girls pole-dancing.
The studio’s owner says, “Kids love the pole” and that “Children have no (erotic) association with the pole whatsoever” because they see poles at playgrounds, fire houses, and circuses. She contends that the focus of the kids’ classes is fitness and technique, and not stripper moves.
But if it’s all innocent, non-sexualized fun and a great way for kids to avoid the allure of the Playstation and the television, why do the pole-dancing classes have names such as “Bellylicious,” “Sexy Flexy,” “Pussycat Dawls,” and “Promiscuous Girls“?
There’s a lot that’s wrong with these classes. Young girls are exposed to overtly sexual images at very young ages. From inappropriately short and skimpy clothing, to not-so-innocent music and movie idols, to messages that in order to be accepted, they must wear make-up, have mani-pedis, and dress much older than they actually are.
And because there is no denying the sexual history of the pole, five-year-olds don’t need to know how to dance on, around, or near it, no matter how “rockin” their abs might look from taking the classes.
Last time I checked, a six-pack wasn’t required to get into Kindergarten.
What do you think of pole-dancing classes for young girls?
There is depressing news from the CDC this week. From 2007 to 2009, 2.4 million more people became obese. This means that 72.5 million Americans, or 26.7 percent of the population, now have this dangerous and costly medical condition.
In addition, nine states (concentrated in the South and Midwest) now have an obesity rate of 30% or more, as compared with just three states in 2005.
And then there are the results of the Nurses Health Study, which came out at the end of June. 18,000 women in their 30s and 40s answered questions about their medical, exercise, and living habits, and it was found that women gain an average of 20 pounds over 16 years, but that those who bike or walk briskly were able to better control their weight.
I happen to think these startling obesity and weight-gain statistics can also find their causes in the recession.
Unhealthy food is cheaper than good food. McDonald’s “restaurants” are popping up in low-income neighborhoods across the country.
And with regard to the weight gain in women over a 16-year period spanning the study participants’ 30s and 40s, it’s no secret that this is the time when many women are getting married and more susceptible to the so-called “love chub.” Women in this age group are also busy raising young children.
Finding time to exercise and eat correctly while knee-deep in diapers and preschooler tantrums is no small feat.
But as someone who has spent years trying to convince a certain loved one that a healthy lifestyle change is needed, I can honestly say that when all things (education, socio-economic status, and physiological makeup) are equal, it basically comes down to one thing.
You have to want it.
I think a lot of Americans are simply okay with being overweight. They don’t exercise. They don’t belong to a gym. They choose to eat garbage food regularly. In many ways, they’ve just made a conscious choice not to make their health a priority.
But then their bodies begin to fail. They develop Type 2 diabetes or sleep apnia. They have strokes and heart attacks. Their doctors tell them that their behaviors are shaving years off their lifespan.
It’s only then that they begin to make the changes necessary to save themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. These people deserve credit too. It is hard work to lose weight. Hard when you have 10 pounds to lose. Even harder when you have 50 or more pounds that must come off. Choosing to take control of one’s life, even after health problems have surfaced, shows a willingness to stop the cycle that’s created the deterioration in the first place.
I know it’s not as simple as putting down the fork and picking up the free weights. I know mitigating factors make it supremely difficult for some people to get healthy.
But I believe in many cases, it’s the drive that’s missing.
It’s the drive that motivates the athlete in marathon training to rise at 6am and run long for three hours. It’s the determination of the college student to take group exercise classes to look fabulous in her bridesmaid gown at her sister’s wedding. It’s the desire of the beer-and-chips-loving dad to drive himself to the gym after work so he can see his youngest child graduate from college.
And unfortunately, the way I see it, too few Americans have it.
I would love to know why.
What do you think about the latest obesity findings? Besides the usual culprits of poor diet, lack of exercise, and limited food education, why do you think Americans are so unhealthy?
My three-year-old daughter received her first “big-girl” bike last week. Too big for her tricycle, she received a two-wheeler, complete with a backpack that attaches to the handlebars, a water bottle, and training wheels.
She is in love, and has wanted to do nothing but ride this bike constantly. And I’m glad, because the CDC recommends that in order to stay healthy, children should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
However, looking at their guidelines and the three types of physical activity the CDC recommends kids perform, I wonder how many kids are meeting this requirement. And perhaps more importantly, how easy it is for them to do so, given the largely sedentary environment in which so many children grow up and the myriad unhealthy temptations that exist everywhere they go.
One of the main reasons I chose my daughter’s preschool was because the children go outside to play on the school’s playground every single day (barring a rainstorm or other prohibitive weather). She’s enrolled in swimming lessons this summer at the club, and is attending her preschool’s outdoor summer camp (in addition to two others through my town’s recreation department). And eating healthfully is something she’s grown up with, so she’s completely unaware that kid-targeted fast-food restaurants even exist.
But she’s three. She doesn’t watch commercial television. We don’t have a video game console. Her computer time is limited to the preschool-level Clifford game at the library. And the Golden Arches are just a giant yellow letter “M” to her. I have no delusions that it will be this easy to keep her active and eating well in another year or two, when her world will open up and she’ll begin to beg for things to which she currently has no exposure.
And I’m scared.
But I’m also really lucky. And you are too.
We belong to a club that makes a healthy lifestyle easy for us, and for our kids as well. The hours accomodate virtually every schedule. Classes are tailored for a wide range of fitness levels and interests. And from Kidtown’s 4,000 square feet of wide open space to encourage movement to Camp Midtown, the club’s four-day Summer Sports Camp for kids, to Tennis and Yoga Camps, the club is focused on helping the entire family stay active.
The childhood obesity rate in this country is skyrocketing, so clearly encouraging our children to get up off the couch, away from the DS, and out from behind the computer is something we need to do. It’s heart-breaking to think of the results of this new study, which has proven something many of us know already: overweight kids are 63% more likely to be bullied in elementary school.
But how do we combat the mixed messages they receive when they’re out of our care?
If you have kids or work with kids, how do you help them stay active?
And what do you think of Santa Clara County’s effort to ban on toys in fast-food meals as a way to combat childhood obesity?
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