Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Art of Play

This post was inspired by a few great articles from Brian Grasso and the IYCA (Interanational Youth and Conditioning Association) on their blog.

When it comes to kids we as adults have a tendency to over coach or be over protective of our children.  We as humans learn through our experiences physically and emotionally.

Kids learn how to develop their neuromuscular system through trial and error.  Just watch a baby try to learn how to walk!  They will experiment with different ways of trying to walk until they find the right amount of stability and balance to create movement.  Babies have built in programming to tell them what they need to do at certain stages of their growing period.  If one of these stages is skipped then it could have effects later on down the line.  We must crawl before we can walk.  The same applies on through adolescence.

From a young age children need to be encouraged to play by pushing, pulling, kicking, not other people :), and throwing.  The playground is an ideal place for this development to occur.  I was at a playground the other day and had a great time watching a young girl discover the strength and balance of her body by pulling herself up the top of a playground apparatus.  One other child attempted to do the same but was quickly stopped by an intervening parent.  I understand the dangers of some of these places but an overprotective parent could prevent their child from receiving the right physical stimulus to develop into happy, well functioning adults.

Youth fitness and conditioning needs to be a long term process.  You can't just skip certain developmental processes.  You must build a great foundation and then add onto that solid foundation.  Talking in architectural language, you can't build a second floor without first building the ground level and first floor.  The same reference can be applied to academics.  It isn't possible to all of the sudden take Calculus without first learning the fundamentals of general math and all the subsequent levels preceding Calculus.  Going from 3rd grade to 12th grade doesn't work because the child is unprepared for the academic work load at that level.

In Youth Fitness, having a 6 week "make you faster and stronger" programme shouldn't be the "be all end all" in their training programme.  Children need to build their base fitness levels and then layer skills on top of that to make them successful in any activity they wish to pursue, sports related or not.  Some of these skills include, balance, agility, coordination, spatial awareness and strength.  A weak foundation in architecture and in youth fitness development, will eventually lead to a crumbling building/body later down the road.

So the take away point is that we should place an emphasis on nurturing the stages of youth development and not to rush them or delay them in any shape or form.  By building a strong foundation of fitness skills in the lives of our children we are helping them to create a successful future as active, happy, injury resistant adults.

FITfully Yours,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Obese Kids Grow Up To Be Obese Adults

I am sure that you have heard many times and even said the following phrase yourself, " our children are our future." This phrase reminds me of the movie "Children of Men" which is set in an apocolyptic future where the youngest person on the planet just died at the age of 18. There are absolutely no children on the earth due to an infertility disease spread throughout human kind. There is no hope for a future in that world. Can you imagine a world without children? It seems a very unhappy place.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), "globally, in 2010 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 42 million. Close to 35 million of these are living in developing countries." That is a staggering statistic. Overweight children under the age of 5! This is not a good start to their young lives and puts them at a high risk to develop heart disease and diabetes at an earlier age, which could eventually lead to an early grave. The good news is nearly all of these cases of obesity can be prevented by including two critical elements in their lives, proper nutrition and increased exercise/activity.

In terms of nutrition, children, especially young children, are subjects of their environment and eat what their parents give them. Therefore it is the responsibility of the parents to provide a sound nutritional regimen for their children, which in turn educates them to eat well when they become adults. Many of us develop eating habits from the environment that we grew up in. My personal experience in America was one of cheap fast food and growing up with two other brothers who battled with me over the last piece of chicken/pizza/pie etc.. My mom did cook some great things but we didn't have a diet high in fruits and vegetables or whole wheat grains and nuts. So some of the habits that I have had to change over the years have definitely been portion control and eating fruits and vegetables at every meal. However I was very active in both sports and outdoor play. Cutting out sugary drinks such as soda is a great start to getting kids on the right track nutritionally. The sugar content in some of those drinks are off the charts and when several are consumed during the day it is a recipe for obesity. The main point that we should realize is that kids and adults need the same things nutritionally, so if a parent is eating an unhealthy diet it is more than likely that their children are as well. Kids should be eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. One common complaint that we hear from parents about veggies is "but my kids don't like vegetables." It takes about 12 encounters with a food before we really can decide whether we like it or not. For example, if your child doesn't like cooked broccoli then experiment with another way of cooking it. You can also add a little sauce to disguise the taste,however, by including those fruits and vegetables at every meal your kids will get a good start and the more color on the plate the better. And that doesn't mean ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise:)

Kids these days are living a more sedentary life and are moving less than their parents and grandparents did. On average children need to be moving at least 60 minutes a day in activites of regular, moderate- to vigorous-intensity. With the rise in technology we find kids sitting in front of computers and television screens more than they are outside playing a sport or on the playground. Not a whole lot is being done by schools about increasing activity. Sure, kids have the occasional P.E. class but 45 minutes once a week is not enough. Humans are built to run, jump, climb, crawl, and throw, on a daily basis and from an early age. Taking part in a sport at an early age is obviously fun for the competitive child but it is the playground where they will achieve their greatest physical benefits. What child does not enjoy going to the playground or park to play and run? It is often the parents who deny them this enjoyment because they are too tired to go outside or simply cannot be bothered. Unfortunately we live in a world where we fear for our childrens safety and it is sometimes a lot easier to have them indoors watching TV than in an environment where they may get hurt .

By instilling a sense of excitement and energy about health fitness and exercise into our children, we are helping to lay a foundation for a long and healthy life. If we as adults provide the right environment for that to happen our children will thrive as happy healthy adults and thus make the bleak future offered by the film "Children of Men" nothing but a fictional story.

FITfully Yours,