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Five Tips to Get Your Child Into Better Shape

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Sports & Fitness

Julie Janovsky, Tribune

They are fast becoming America's most inactive generation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overweight children ages 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years (from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 19 percent in 2004).

The rate among adolescents 12 to 19 more than tripled, increasing from 5 percent to 17 percent.

And obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, prevalent among adults, have become more common in youngsters.

The time to start addressing your child's health concerns is now, say East Valley fitness and diet experts. Here are their tips on how to get started:


"The best thing a parent can do to help their child get and stay fit is to get involved themselves," says Seth Moylan, chief instructor at United Studios of Self Defense in Scottsdale. "When children can see firsthand the way their parents lead an active and healthy lifestyle, they now have a role model to follow." Moylan is offering a Family Fitness Challenge through May. Families interested in working out and learning self-defense together get a month's worth of free private and group lessons. Information: (480) 922-7221 or


"Parents need to schedule active time, not just computer time," stresses Jan Hertzfeld, health and fitness director at the YMCA in Mesa. Hertzfeld launched Y Fitness for Youth two years ago in an effort to give parents a place to bring their children for a supervised workout.

The exercise program, designed for children ages 7 to 12, available to all East Valley YMCA members, offers circuit training in the facility's fitness room 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Children can take part in everything from jogging on the indoor track to working out on the machines, and even play volleyball and dodgeball while their parents do their own workout. Information: (480) 969-8166 or


When you don't have time to take your kids to an activity, Hertzfeld says is a great source of exercise ideas. The physical education Web site offers a number of activities and detailed lesson plans to get children moving.


"Exercise should become a routine at home, just like brushing teeth," says Hertzfeld. "Exercises like sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks can easily be done during TV commercial breaks. Such exercises are also a good way to start the day," says Hertzfeld. "Parents can create an exercise of the day. It will help children get energized before they head to school."


Exercise is only half the battle; diet is also crucial. Jean Merkel, a registered dietitian with Cigna Medical Group, says parents can easily reduce their child's caloric intake in a number of areas. The first step is beverages. Merkel, who recommends water and milk, says parents should avoid giving their children highcalorie offenders like fruit juice and sugary sodas, lemonade and punch on a regular basis. They should be kept out of the house and used as a treat when they go out.

Merkel says parents can also cut calories by limiting fast food and replacing chips and sweets with healthier snacks such as apple slices with peanut butter and raw vegetables. For a list of ideas, Merkel recommends


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