As many of you know, I own and operate Amazing Athletes of Oklahoma. For those of you who don’t know what we do, we coach sports-based fitness classes to children ages 2-7 years old. One question I get a lot is “Do you think my child is too young for your class?” My response is always an emphatic, “No way!” Here’s why.

Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate. Nearly one out of every three children in America is now considered overweight or obese. One study has found that approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight at 10-15 years old were still overweight at 25. The number went up even more for children who were overweight prior to 8 years old.

There are many factors that have contributed to this epidemic. There seem to be fast food restaurants on every street corner. Eating healthy, organic food can be expensive. It is estimated that children 8-18 years old spend at least three hours a day in front of an electronic device (computer screen, phone, television, video games). Children tend to snack more when they are watching TV or playing video games, and the snacks are usually extremely unhealthy.

Even though obesity in children 2-11 years old has more than doubled in the last 20 years, the steps to fight it are amazingly simple. Like much in life, habits are formed early, so it is very important to establish healthy habits as early as possible.

The first step is getting active. It is suggested that kids get at least 60 minutes of play every day, 30 of which should be structured. Being involved in physical activity will improve developmental skills, coordination and overall confidence. It will also drastically reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels and low self-esteem. Getting active can be as easy as riding a bike, playing catch or a game of tag, or simply going for a walk every day. The point is to make the effort to be active; I promise it will pay off.

The second step is eating healthy. Only 2% of school-aged children get the recommended daily number of servings from all five food groups. You can control what you eat by taking lunch to school or work instead of buying. If taking lunch isn’t an option, picking the apple instead of the cinnamon roll or the low-fat milk instead of the soda will go a long way. You can prepare dinner at home instead of eating out. This can not only be healthier, but it can also be a great way to spend time together as a family. Be aware of what you eat and make healthy choices. If you have to ask yourself if you should be eating it, then chances are you shouldn’t be.

The last step is education – 9 out of 10 parents think their child is healthy, but in reality only 3 in 10 are. Educating parents and children on the importance of having structured play time, limiting time spent in front of the TV and computer and encouraging healthier eating will go a long way in helping us become more active, stay in shape, live longer and live better.

Until next Friday,

Coach Michael

Today’s Fun Fact: ‘Second Street’ is the most common street name in the United States; ‘First Street’ is the sixth most common. Go figure.

Amazing Athletes of Oklahoma

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