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Posts Tagged ‘Back to School’

Fighting Childhood Obesity through Play

 

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Unhealthy kids are growing into unhealthy adults, causing a major health care problem in the United States.

When it comes to helping kids form healthy habits, it’s best to start young. Studies have shown that different types of exercise affect a child’s mental capacity in a variety of ways. A simple 20-minute walk can immediately affect a child’s attention, function and academic success. However, the reverse is true for highly structured, rule-based exercise, such as a sport or coordination drills. This type of exercise may be too taxing for children immediately before a test or other activity that requires sustained focus. Instead, higher intensity exercises seem to build a child’s attention span gradually over time. Children who are physically fit perform better in attention tests–even small improvements in fitness lead to noticeable changes in the brain.

Participating in sports or other fitness-driven activities, especially right after the school day, can be a natural and less forced outlet to allow children to build up their attention span while having fun. Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program combines fitness, sports, movement and games to help improve athletic performance for this purpose. In the long run, children are learning how to focus for future tests and other tasks that require concentration.

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Kids develop athletic skills during Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program.

Various studies have linked academic performance to overall health and fitness in children. Data taken from students in California show the following relationships between fitness and academics:

  • Higher levels of fitness = increased math testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = increased language arts testing scores
  • Healthier lunches = increased math and language arts testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = higher school attendance rate
  • Higher levels of fitness = fewer negative school incidents

A study of more than 2.4 million Texas students found that students who are physically fit are more likely to do well on the state’s standardized tests and have higher school attendance. Physically fit students are also less likely to have disciplinary problems. The Cooper Institute developed FitnessGram, the first “student fitness report card,” in an effort to improve school physical education programs and children’s health.

“The impact exercise has on the growing brain is unparalleled,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics. “Increased exercise improves cardiovascular health, and that helps the brain function more efficiently and enhances its ability to learn.”

Playing sports such as tennis or basketball can help children improve their attention while also helping them reach a higher level of fitness, which is beneficial to them at both a young age and as they grow into adults.

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Improving skills on the court with Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel.

It is recommended that students do at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day, with more than half occurring during regular school hours and the remaining outside of school. Estimates suggest only about half of U.S. children meet this guideline.

Cooper Fitness Center offers various after-school youth programs to help kids get up and moving while boosting their brain power. Learn more about sport-specific programming and other youth programs at cooperyouth.com/dallas.

Start the School Year Off Right

By Meredith Rosson, Youth Programs Director, Cooper Fitness Center Dallas

The back-to-school season is just around the corner! I know that making the transition from long summer days to the school year can be a crazy time for your family. With summer camps at Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas wrapping up, we’re busy getting ready for our fall youth programs. After talking with our summer campers, I wanted to share these tips to help you start the school year right – and stay organized all year long.

Two Weeks before School Starts:

  • Schedule doctor visits. Most schools require immunization records, so it’s important to schedule your child’s dentist and doctor appointments to allow enough time for any follow up visits before school starts. This will also let you know if there are any underlying issues that need to be addressed with your child’s school and teacher. Watch this video from our Cooper Clinic physician Dr. Emily Hebert with additional reminders for doctor’s visits.
  • Re-establish daily routines. During the summer, your child’s routine become a little off course. It’s important to re-establish their daily routines such as mealtimes and bedtime, in order to ensure that they are ready to conquer each school day with bountiful energy and a good attitude.
  • Fuel their body. Provide your child with nutritious meals to give their body lasting energy and to boost their brainpower. It’s also vital that they are getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. You can re-establish a normal “school night” bedtime, by moving up their bedtime by 20 minutes every 2-3 days to help their bodies adjust.
  • Turn off the TV. When your child is out of school for the summer, it’s easy to let them spend too much time with electronics like the TV and computer. Stimulate your child’s brain and help them learn to focus by encouraging activities such as books, word puzzles, arts and crafts, and musical instruments.
  • Establish a positive attitude. When done properly and consistently, your words are the most influential tool in shaping your child’s attitude and feelings towards school. Share your favorite school memories to instill a sense of excitement in your child.

One Week before School Starts:

  • Visit the school. Whether your child is heading to a new school, new grade or will start rotating from class to class, it’s always a good idea to show them where they will be spending the next nine months of their life. This is a great way to alleviate anxiety and help make the first day of school seem more familiar.
  • Provide a sense of responsibility. Your child’s bedtime routine can be a great opportunity to teach them responsibility. Allowing them to pick out their daily outfit, set their own alarm and pack their backpack, will empower your child to grow into the self-sufficient adult that you want them to be someday! Don’t forget, it’s always a good idea to supervise these types of activities.
  • Prepare meals ahead of time. The first week of school can be a little chaotic, so prepping simple meals ahead of time will take the stress and time out of the kitchen, allowing you more time to connect with your child on their daily experiences at school.

First Week of School:

  • Meet the teacher. It’s important to build relationships with your child’s teacher to set a positive foundation for the upcoming year. This will allow you to express your sincere interest in their feedback about your child’s behavior and classwork, and to show your support for the goals that they set for your child. Meet-n-greet opportunities also give you the chance to learn the best way to communicate with the teacher.

All Year Long:

  • Playtime before homework. The school day is long and your child often needs to be physically active and release pent-up energy. Believe it or not, studies show that having time to play outside before a big test helps children with their concentration and results in better grades. The same theory can apply to your home life. Designate a specific amount of home recess time before your child comes in to start on their homework. Here’s a few play date ideas to try!
  • After school snacks. With my job, I’ve come to understand how easily kids can become hungry! Be sure to offer them a healthy snack to hold off their hunger pains until dinnertime. As a rule of thumb, the snack should not be more than 200 calories. To find delicious snacks ideas that your child is sure to love, click here.
  • Teachable moments. Whether your child forgets their homework or doesn’t remember to complete last night’s assignment, these types of moments can teach your child responsibility and accountability. It’s key to teach your child that their actions have natural consequences. As a result, your child will learn to check their backpacks and establish a routine to help them become a successful individual throughout their life.

I hope these tips will help you and your child to experience a wonderful school year!

What tips do you have to ease your child back into the school routine?

Back to School Lunches

Can you believe it’s time for school again? If you pack your child’s lunch, you might be facing the dilemma of finding something healthy and quick. It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but with some planning you can pack your kids a healthy, tasty lunch in no time.

So what is a healthy lunch? An energy-packed lunch combines lean proteins (turkey breast, grilled chicken, tuna, beans and low-fat dairy) with high-fiber carbohydrates (fruits, veggies and whole grains). Add in a small amount of healthy fat (nuts, nut butters, avocados and hummus) to help keep hunger under control until it’s time to eat again. Growing kids—and adults—need to eat low-fat dairy foods several times a day too, so think of lunch as a great opportunity for to squeeze it in.

How do you build a healthy lunch? Just mix and match from each of the groups below:

Wholegrains/Starches:

  • Wholegrain crackers or pretzels
  • Wholewheat bread or tortilla
  • Wholewheat sandwich thin or bagel thin
  • Wholewheat pasta twirls
  • Cooked ball of wild or brown rice
  • Low-fat popcorn (Vic’s)
  • Granola bar (with at least 3 g fiber)

Lean Proteins:

  • Deli turkey or ham
  • Grilled chicken breast strips
  • Beans, including edamame
  • Peanut butter
  • 100-calories pack of nuts
  • Low-fat cheese made with 2% milk
  • Low-fat cottage cheese cup (Breakstone’s)

Fruits:

  • Apple slices or chunks (dip in pineapple or orange juice to prevent browning)
  • Mixed berries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Melon chunks
  • Dried fruit
  • Orange or Clementine wedges
  • Canned fruit cup, in it’s own juice

Veggies:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Cucumber coins
  • Sweet pepper strips
  • Celery sticks
  • Grape tomatoes

Dairy:

  • Light fat-free yogurt
  • Low-fat yogurt tube (Yoplait Go-Gurt)
  • 1% milk box (Horizon Farms, shelf stable)
  • Low-fat cheeses (Light Babybel, The Laughing Cow light, light string cheese)

Healthy Fats:

  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Low-fat dressings and dips

Here’s a quick tip: Get your child involved in packing their own lunch. This way they will be more likely to eat it and enjoy it!

And, it’s okay to throw in an occasional treat. In nutrition jargon, we call that a “sometimes” food. Just try not to overdo it!

Make lunchtime even more fun for your kids with little notes. It will give them something cool to look forward to and put a smile on their faces. Create your own or click this link for some notes with fun, healthy messages:

What are some of your favorite lunch box ideas? Please share them by leaving a comment below.

For more information on nutrition consultations visit our website or call 972.560.2655.