From Backpacks to Briefcases
By Vincent Lyles
President/CEO of Greater Milwaukee Girls & Boys Clubs
You might think because it is summer that kids are generally more active. However, this is not always the case and many kids might be getting less exercise than they do while they are in school. Lack of a structured school curriculum and P.E. classes and much more free time allows for kids to slow down their physical activity and engage in unhealthy eating habits.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children between eight and 18 years of age spend an average of 7.5 hours every day using entertainment media: TV, movies, video games, cell phones, and computers. This allows for less physical movement and typically more snacking.
This behavior can be very serious because forming bad habits as children can lead to childhood obesity and we are seeing this spread at rapid rates across the country. One in six children ages two to nineteen in the U.S. are currently obese (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). Childhood obesity has proven to be the cause of more serious health conditions as adults, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and other chronic conditions.
The leading cause of obesity is simple: exercising too little and eating too much. Unfortunately, the society we live in today does not make it easy on families. Portion sizes for food are much larger than they used to be and unhealthy foods are everywhere at corner stores and fast food restaurants. The wider access to media today has also allowed for more sedentary lifestyles.
At Boys & Girls Clubs, Health and Life Skills is a core program area. We ensure that our Club kids are exposed to good decision making surrounding their health. This includes a wide range of topics, such as choosing healthy snacks, getting proper exercise and staying away from bad social habits. While we do our part to educate our Club kids on proper health decisions, it needs to also come from home.
We need to teach our kids healthy habits as early as possible and this starts with parents and caregivers. Parents are the number one role models in children’s lives and they naturally follow their examples. By choosing to make healthy decisions themselves, parents are demonstrating this importance to their children— and they will follow suit. Little changes can make big differences in the lives of kids and their overall health. Take the time to get out and play with your kids this summer, go for a bike ride, add a vegetable to each meal and limit screen time (TV and the computer). The benefits to choosing healthy habits can lead to a long, healthy, and happy life.