Family Fit

By Jeff Howard
Photos by
Jillian Clark
Noelle Adams, Ashley Robertson, Alison Cardoza and Alexa Cardoza

This month’s topic is family fitness, and while I could talk endlessly about the benefits of training together as a family, it’s impossible not to address a less-fun topic: childhood obesity.

How many of you remember coming home from school and having to do your homework before you could go outside to play? How many of you stayed at school after classes to play a sport or do an after-school activity? Well, today’s world is a little different. Times have changed, and after-school activities suffer from budget cuts. Even playing outside is a different story. The effects on children and adolescents are truly frightening: a lack of physical activity and an increase in a sedentary lifestyle has given rise to an upward trend in obesity. Obesity-associated illnesses that previously were found only in adults (high blood pressure and type-two diabetes, for example) are now commonly found in children.

Of course, we lead by example, and our example tends to include poor nutrition, extended screen time, and a lack of physical activity and sleep. I feel, however, that we can change this. We can turn this epidemic around and make a change towards a healthier example by following just a few guidelines:

Screen time suggestions:

• Under age two, avoid digital media use.

• For ages two to five, limit screen time to one hour a day.

• Do not allow screen use within one hour of bedtime.

• Try to keep bedrooms, mealtimes and playtimes screen-free.

• Simply turn electronics off when not in use.

The key age for promoting healthy behaviors is before age six. Physical activity starts declining at age seven. We know that children can be picky eaters; I remember having to sit at the table until I was finished with my own dinner, and yes, I too hated vegetables! In my childhood, fast-food was a treat, as were carbonated beverages. In today’s world, however, it’s less expensive to feed a child from the dollar menu at your favorite fast-food restaurant than to buy fresh produce. We need to change this. Let’s try to limit the knee-jerk response of opting for the drive-thru, and make an effort to eat non-processed food at home instead. If we do go to fast-food restaurants, let’s limit the caloric intake. Have the fries, but hold the soda. Make smarter choices.

Concentrating on food and movement will take your family a long way towards living healthier. But sleep is another key component of our lifestyle that’s responsible for both growth and combating obesity.

Recommended sleep time guidelines:

• 3-5 years: 10-13 hours

• 6-12 years: 9-12 hours

• 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

The bottom line is, you can make little changes to improve the health of you and your family.  Movement is essential for musculoskeletal issues, brain development and motor skill development, and even a simple game of tag or hide-and-seek will assist with this. There are video games that promote movement, and even dancing to your children’s favorite songs is exercise. Family walks provide an opportunity to bond and a safe way to get some cardio training.

I designed a workout that your children can do after school, either with you or by themselves. Start off completing it twice a week.

1. Curtsy Squats (20)

Start with your feet hip-width apart, take your right leg and step behind the left and bend the knees. Bring it back to a squat and repeat on the other leg.

2. Lateral Lunges (20)

Start with your feet hip-width apart, step outside with the right leg, keep the left leg straight as you bend the knee of the right leg. Bring back to your squat and repeat on the other side. 

3. Squats Alternating
Toes (20)

Start with your feet hip-width apart, bend at the knee and hold. Lift the heel of the left foot then place it back to the floor and lift the right heel. Alternate from right to left.

4. Breakdancer Burpees (15)

Start with your feet hip-width apart, then lower to the floor, jumping back into plank. Rotate over to the right. Push up with your hips rotating to the left. Lift up to your hips and go back to plank position, lifting back up into standing position.

5. Tricep Dips (15)

Start in a seated position with feet hip-width apart. Lift your buttocks off the floor. Bend your elbow towards the ground then lift back upwards.

6. Push-Ups (15)

Start on all fours, walk your hands forward and bend at the elbows. Lower yourself to the floor, then lift back upwards.

7. Butterfly Abs (20)

Start in a seated position with feet hip-width apart. Lower knees to the floor with your feet still connected. Reach hands forward, lower to the floor then bring back up to seated position. For a progression, keep your hands in front of your chest and repeat the sit-up. For another progression, put your hands behind your head and repeat the sit-up.

8. Knee Knee Crunch (20)

Start in a seated position with feet hip-width apart. Lower to the floor, then crunch upwards, reaching for the left knee then the right. Lower back to the floor. On the next set, reach for the right knee then the left.