The reports of the childhood obesity problem in the U.S. are all around us. Michelle Obama, being  First Lady, started a campaign to help eradicate obesity among the country’s children. But, the question is: how?

Watching Television is Linked to Obesity

The two most unhealthy behaviors children have today are bad eating habits and sitting in front of the television or watch cartoons online. Watching TV is likely the biggest cause of childhood obesity. The researchers claim that just sitting, doing nothing, actually uses more fat-burning energy than watching television.

Physical Activity is the Key to Childrens’ Health

Children and teenagers should perform 60 minutes of physical activity each day. The CDC explains that physical activity increases calorie burn – which can help maintain proper weight – and contributes to the reduction of the likelihood of such maladies as:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • depression and anxiety

In addition, establishing an active lifestyle in childhood increases the odds of remaining active in adulthood. Active adults tend to be healthier later in life, reducing the frequency of diseases associated with age.

How to Get the Child Away from the TV

The challenge for most parents is how to get the child off the couch and to become more active. The first suggestion is for parents to set an example and maintain an active lifestyle themselves. This may seem daunting to some, but it is doable.

With the busy schedules people have, it may seem impossible to fit in yet one more endeavor each day. But, by examining one’s schedule – a half-hour here, 15 minutes there – time can be found. A good first step is to turn off the television. Okay, that may seem simple, but it can be a challenge. However, just skipping one show frees up 30 minutes. Fill that time with physical activity. For example, rather than watching the boob-tube right after dinner, take a family walk of 20 minutes. That’s a third of the way to reaching the hour goal.

A-List of Tips for Getting Active

  • As a parent, set a positive example and become active. This is beneficial for the adult, and children learn a lot from the actions of their parents.
  • Create a reward system, e.g. points rewarded for a game of kickball or swimming laps can be redeemed for a night at the movies.
  • Walk around the neighborhood after dinner, instead of watching TV.
  • Walk the children to school rather than driving.
  • Rather than buying the latest DVD or video game, purchase some type of sports equipment: skateboard, football, Frisbee, etc.
  • Make the kids help with yard work.
  • Turn on the radio, or put in a CD, and dance to the music.
  • Sign-up the child for a community sport, like soccer, baseball, or basketball.
  • Ride bikes as a family.
  • Play Nerf football, kids against grown-ups. What child does not want to tackle her parents?
  • For older children, a martial arts class can increase the parent-child bond when taken together.
  • Agree to let the child watch a half-hour of television after he spends a half-hour on physical activity of his choice.
  • When allowing video games, challenge the children to play games requiring movements, such as Wii Sports or EA Sports Active.
  • Watch television shows together and have sit-ups, or push-up, competitions with the kids during commercials and lulls in the show.
  • Make physical activity fun – keep that positive attitude.

Children need to have an hour of physical activity each day. The benefits of living an active life will continue with them as they move through adulthood. The list above provides a few ideas to get kids off that couch, away from the television, and to become more active.