It’s here: March Madness is taking over, and who among us doesn’t entertain a thought of playing basketball just like the pros? Basketball is a great sport that promotes hand/eye coordination, speed, agility and teamwork. Why not plan a family activity night that includes some of these great games – challenge your kids to a hoop showdown!
H.O.R.S.E – One player takes the shot of her choice; if she makes it, the other players must shoot in exactly the same manner and from the same location. If the player misses the shot, he receives a letter of the word “horse”; if he makes it, players continue on without a letter. The first player to spell the entire word HORSE is the loser.
Around the World – Pick locations on the court for players to shoot from; the first player to make shots from each of the spots wins. If someone misses a shot, they are out and the game continues until a player makes all shots.
Working mothers take note: According to a study in the journal Child Development, the longer a mother is employed is associated with an increase in her child’s body mass index (BMI).
The study’s co-authors analyzed 900 children and found the increase in children’s BMI which continued to grow as children got older. The study found that at a third grade level there was approximately a 1-pound gain for every six months the child’s mother worked. The weight gain was cumulative and the link became more obvious as the children matured into fifth- and sixth-grade.
We all know that childhood obesity is a major and growing problem in this country. While I’ve seen many good initiatives focus on getting more nutritious foods in kids’ diets and increasing activity at school and at home, one thing seems to be off of everyone’s radar: weight training! Although lifting weights had previously been thought to be only appropriate for adults- and perhaps even unsafe for youngsters- research from the last decade has proved otherwise.
In fact, when under proper supervision and training, it’s OK for children as young as 7 to try strength training. Contrary to beliefs of the past, lifting weights doesn’t stunt children’s growth. Instead, it actually strengthens bones and connective tissue, which can reduce the risk of injury when engaging in other physical activities. Not to mention that putting in a few reps in the school gym is far safer than playing tough contact sports like football.
Being sedentary has all kinds of health implications for kids. More than eight percent of all kids in the U.S. have diabetes. Now it’s also being linked to their performance in school, which makes the fact that gym classes being removed from kids’ curriculum all the more destructive.
Researchers are finding that when sedentary, overweight kids start to exercise, their performance in math and overall thinking and planning skills improved. Experts also linked exercise to increased activity in the “executive function” area of the brain.
The researchers evaluated the children using standard achievement tests. Some of the kids even had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans done of their brains. The MRIs revealed that those who exercised had increased activity in the “executive function” area, which is associated with self-control, planning, reasoning and abstract thought.
“We know that exercise is good for you, but we didn’t have very good evidence that it would help children do better in school,” said lead researcher Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta. (more…)
Every five years, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services work together to update the Dietary Guidelines to reflect changing and new research. This is the year that the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released, and the changes were minimal for the most part, although there was an additional emphasis on addressing the ever increasing obesity epidemic. There was a special section devoted to the health and well being of our children.
To illustrate how times have changed for our children, let’s take a look at the rates of obesity and how they have increased. In 1970, less than 5% of all children were classified as obese. In 2011, that figure has doubled. Similar rates of increase were seen for most other age groups. The most shocking increase was seen in children ages 6-11, a group which showed an increase of 400%, jumping from just 4% to more than 20%.
It appears that girls who get a ride to school each morning don’t perform as well on tests as their classmates who walk to school. The benefits of exercise are numerous and we already know that it has the ability to improve brain-function and memory. Increased blood-flow to the brain and the extra time to reflect clearly offers an advantage to girls who walk to school, regardless of how much exercise they get during the rest of their day. What’s not so clear is that the same cannot be said for boys. There’s no noticeable difference among boys who walk to school versus those who drive. We’re obviously working with some unseen factors that need to be explored more in-depth.
It’s possible that boys are more active throughout their daily routines so an extra fifteen minutes in the morning doesn’t make much of a difference. It’s also possible that differences among brain structure and hormone development influence the immediate effects of exercise. Regardless of the fuzzy details, it can be agreed that all children benefit from an active lifestyle. Only half of US children partake in one hour of moderate exercise each day. What’s worse is that even fewer teens achieve the recommended amount of daily exercise.
Plenty of exercise is essential to the proper upbringing of children. Active play and team sports are a great way to get your kid moving, but some people are suggesting that organized training should start younger than school age or even in toddlerhood. Babies as young as six months old are exercising and using fitness DVDs. Is this cutting-edge-genius or is it a classic case of good advice taken too far? Doreen Bolhuis, a fitness coach from Michigan, has created GymTrix. GymTrix provides babies and toddlers with the opportunity to develop sports-like skills through exercise DVDs.
Many professionals are against the idea of sports training for children so young. Dr. Lyle Micheli has made no secret of his disdain for the trend. He sees no benefits to subjecting such young children to exercise DVDs. He actually fears that it may produce more “overuse injury” among children. Former NBA player Bob Bigelow gives his opinion as well, saying “this is Baby Mozart stuff; you play Mozart for the baby in utero and it comes out some sort of fine arts major,” he said. “There are millions of American parents worried to death that their children might fall behind somebody else’s kid. So the emphasis in youth sports has become more, more, more, younger, younger, younger.”
With childhood obesity numbers on the rise, you might think that schools are doing everything they can to help their students meet their daily exercise needs. Not so in 32 states. According to National Association for Sport and Physical Education spokeswoman Paula Kun, the numbers of states who allow students an exemption from P.E. class has been on the rise since 2006.
Students who are enrolled in marching band, cheerleading, and interscholastic sports are often allowed to use an exemption to avoid P.E. class. There are also exemptions allowed for disability or religious reasons.
“Unfortunately, so many schools are having more and more waivers — particularly at the high school level,” Kun says. “The great majority of high school students are required to take physical education only one year out of the four. They get out for religious reasons, for ROTC, for marching band. There’s a whole slew of waiver possibilities.”
Attend any middle school cross country meet and take a look at the participants. Hidden among the 6-8th graders you might very well see some younger runners. In recent years, the average age has fallen and now you can see scores of first and second graders running distance. My own 7th grade daughter runs cross country and has for three years. On her team are three second graders and a handful of higher elementary students. What has brought on the popularity of running for the younger set?
Many children have grown up watching their parents run for fun or exercise and become interested. Often, distance runs, such as the Marine Corps Marathon, also sponsor Fun Runs, runs of 1-3 miles that are specifically geared toward kids. Many think that children are competing in these runs for the rewards of trophies and medals, but you might be surprised. Most often, children indicate that they run just for the fun of running. Schools have begun cross country teams and groups have sprung up all across America to help get kids interested in running. One such group is Girls on the Run International, a non-profit that provides schools and communities with the steps for a 12-week running program for young girls. At the completion of the program, the participants can run a 5K. Kunz began the program with just 13 girls and now numbers more than 70,000.
The old school of thought for kids lifting weights was that it should be off limits, since it was an injury risk. However, recent research counters this long-held thought process, saying that school-age children and adolescents can enjoy the benefits of strength training.
Experts say that the benefits of decreased body fat, increased bone density, and improved sports performance with limiting injury risk in those sports all generally outweighed any risks. And, it’s not just about lifting weights. Kids can do strength training using exercise machines, elastic bands or body resistance.
“Since resistance training in children and adolescents is known to be safe and to be associated with several health benefits, children and adolescents should be generally encouraged to participate in a resistance-training program,” said Michael Behringer from the German Sport University Cologne. (more…)