The strong link between physical fitness and academic achievement, as reported by eMaxHealth, means that the way your family eats and exercises influences your child’s success at school. But the alarming number of overweight children—one in three, according to KidsHealth—tells us that raising a child with a healthy body weight is getting tougher.
The start of a new school year is a great time to introduce wholesome routines. Besides improving performance in the classroom, the healthy behaviors children learn will help them sustain optimum health as adults.
Carole Carson, the author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, says that parents’ homework is to teach and demonstrate healthy habits so that their children can do well at school. Here are three back-to-school tips for getting FIT:
F = Focus on fun: Fuel your child’s body with a nutritious breakfast. Encourage your child to pack his or her own lunch, choosing from healthy options. Stick smiley faces on the plastic bags containing vegetables or fruit. Replace soft drinks and sports drinks with water or milk. Buy your child’s favorite cereal, and add nuts and raisins to create a special trail mix. If your child eats at the school cafeteria, review the menus and help your child make healthful choices. Keep easy-to-eat fruits (such as bananas and apples) and vegetables (such as baby carrots) handy for after-school snacks.
I = Incorporate movement: Indulge your sense of fun by going outdoors and playing kickball or catch with your child, or go to a playground and swing on the swings together. When outdoor exercise isn’t an option, consider investing in one of the popular video exergames, such as Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit. Encourage your child to move by limiting screen time—the time spent sitting in front of a television, computer or standard video game.
T = Team up: Instead of driving your child to school, travel together on foot or on bicycles. Tackle weight loss by forming teams among family members and with neighbors. Join parents’ groups that support physical exercise during the school day and healthy food choices in school cafeterias. Share the task of preparing the nightly meal with your child. Use suppertime to talk about the day’s events and reconnect.
Medical and educational professionals agree that fit and active kids learn better. Focusing on fitness as a family will result in good grades today and the joy of watching your child become a healthy, active and productive adult tomorrow.