It can be super challenging to get a typically developing child active. When a child is overweight or obese and has other health conditions such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) special measures are needed. You can’t just sign up your child for a sports team or give her a gym membership.
The First Step
The first stop is the pediatrician’s office or the pediatric gastroenterologist’s office. Ask the doctor for advice on physical activity and get permission to participate in sports team or sports events. Obesity can cause or worsen other health conditions such as GERD, high blood pressure, asthma and cause breathing issues and chest pain with heavy lifting or exertion. The doctor can help you adjust her diet, mealtimes and medication so she can participate in sports without triggering your reflux. Many athletes with GERD find that avoiding eating and staying hydrated are very important for managing symptoms while on the run.
Helping your child become more active is more about taking little steps rather than going out to the store and buying a full workout wardrobe and showing up at the gym or playing field. You and your child may not be ready for a fast paced start to exercise and movement.
Let’s Move! Tips for Parents
It is best if the whole family is involved in healthy exercise and movement. You are the most important, powerful role models for your children. And let’s face it, most of us could use a bit more movement and exercise in our week too!
Mix Things Up
If a typical weekend activity is going to the mall for a movie, mix things up a bit. Maybe substitute bowling, mini golf, and ice skating or swimming at a local pool instead. Re-frame your celebrations too. Instead of a “pizza party” at your favorite pizza restaurant, maybe you could host a “swimming party”. Pizza is still on the menu but it is not the central focus.
I think having a schedule is extremely important. How about: Monday: playground, Wednesday: swimming lesson, Friday: bike ride.
Sign up the family for a walk-a-thon or bike-a-thon. You can walk or bike at your own pace and support a charity too. I love when I can multi task: get some exercise, make a donation to charity and maybe even get a t shirt too. By the way, having a t-shirt from a recent event is often highly regarded and a great conversation item at school.
Doing chores around the house increases movement and is part of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t do all of those pesky chores yourself before rushing off to swimming lessons! Give your children jobs: carrying out the recycle bin, raking leaves, vacuuming, folding laundry or putting away the groceries. Even preschoolers should have jobs and they are very happy to help. If they must watch TV, they can fold laundry or sort the socks instead of reaching into a bag of chips.
Sometimes it is just too rainy for outdoor play. It is time to make an obstacle course, play Hide and Seek, put on Wii Fit, dance, put on the exercise DVD or play animal charades. Young children may enjoy chasing bubbles or balloons. However, it is always surprising to me how fascinating these items are to older children too!
Your child may enjoy keeping track of her exercise and movement activities. Be sure to bring your chart to the doctor’s appointments and share with the PE teacher too. They need to know what you are doing at home. The PE teacher may be a wonderful resource for information about local events (walk-a-thons) and classes in the community.
Maybe you could have a “Golden Shoe” award for meeting an exercise goal. Another idea is to earn points towards an item at the sporting goods store. A new Frisbee or ball is often inspiring enough to encourage more play and movement.
Published On: April 23, 2010