Monday, June 18, 2012

Where do the calories go?

It's accepted these days that kids don't get enough physical activity. We hear more and more that kids spend too much time in front of the TV and computers turning into big cheesy couch potatoes, and not enough time outside exercising. In fact, I am part of a community effort to teach people exactly that, and then teach them how to change it. The program is called 95210: The Whole Picture of Health, which recommends kids to get at least one hour of physical activity each day. You can read more about it and the other health benchmarks recommended for kids and families here.

But is it true that kids get less than an hour of exercise each day? Or are we just assuming that it's true because we've been told so?

This article USA Today article, which I found while doing some research on the average amount of time that kids spend in physical activity, shows that kids are really close already to that one hour. In fact, healthy-sized kids get on average 59 minutes of physical activity, and obese children trail behind them at 46 minutes. 

So what gives? It looks like these kids are doing a good job in the move-around category of creating a healthy lifestyle.

I'm thinking it's what happens when they're not exercising. Yep, the food. It's true for parents and it's true for kids too: you can't out-exercise a bad diet. What good is that hour-long soccer practice if you immediately give your kids a 310-calorie sports drink and 190-calorie granola bar, and then drive through to get a 1,000+ calorie dinner at a fast-food restaurant because you're too busy too cook something? It's not good at all! 

Just as mom and dad shouldn't "reward" themselves for a great workout by indulging in unhealthy food, our kids are likely eating more calories than they're burning. You can find out how many calories your kid needs, and determine whether they are active enough to compensate for their daily nutrition, here.  

Even active kids are eating too much. Calculate your kids' energy needs and then do a quick tally of what they eat each day. Are they burning those calories off or are you setting them down a path to obesity, only to be confused when they reach their destination because they've always been active?

Just as mom and dad can't out-exercise a bad diet, neither can our kids! Get out there and get healthy today, by the numbers.

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