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.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for a fun activity for your child’s birthday, their youth group or class team building Orienteering may be the way to go. Cooper Fitness Center Personal Fitness Trainer Shannon Edwards, M.S., leader of the Orienteering programs, gives us an inside look.
Orienteering mixes physical activity, brain power, fun and teamwork to help groups find trust, guidance, communication and encouragement. Orienteering in it’s true sense is a cross country race in which participants use a map and compass to navigate between checkpoints along an unfamiliar course. It is very task oriented and ideal for small groups to compete in teams of five people or less. Group orienteering requires excellent communications skills and group cooperation to efficiently accomplish the mission of course navigation. Whatever obstacles or problems the group may encounter must be overcome and solved with only the use of group communication, compass, and map—which are important skill sets for children to learn early!
At the Cooper Aerobics Center which is 30 acres, any given orienteering course will cover between 3-5 miles! Kids get a cardiovascular workout that is outdoors, mission based—and fun too.
There are two forms of Orienteering at Cooper Fitness Center:
The Scavenger Hunt is for small groups who will navigate a specific course with a map and compass.
The Blind Navigation requires one group to successfully plot coordinates on a map and relay the correct course navigation to teammates on the course that don’t have the benefit of seeing the map.
Leadership skills, listening skills and critical thinking under pressure are necessary for both styles of orienteering. No matter what style of orienteering you choose, fun is the main ingredient for both.
Cooper Fitness Center hosts orienteering events for church groups, sport teams, girl/boy scout groups, companies, and even youth birthday parties. Click here to see the flyer.
To schedule your group’s Orienteering, please email or call 972.233.4832, ext. 6402.
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:
- 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)
- 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)
- Apple slices or chunks (dip in pineapple or orange juice to prevent browning)
- Mixed berries
- Melon chunks
- Dried fruit
- Orange or Clementine wedges
- Canned fruit cup, in it’s own juice
- Carrot sticks
- Sugar snap peas
- Cucumber coins
- Sweet pepper strips
- Celery sticks
- Grape tomatoes
- 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)
- Nut butters
- 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.
By: Patty Kirk, RD, LD, Co-Director of Nutrition at Cooper Clinic
Today is a ground breaking day for families trying to navigate healthy dining in restaurants for their children. The National Restaurant Association in collaboration with Healthy Dining announced 19 restaurant chains, including Chili’s Grill & Bar, Outback Steakhouse and more, will improve their healthy menu options for kids in more than 15,000 restaurant locations.
Currently many kids’ meal options can easily reach 1,000 calories or more. In order to be part of this new program, the restaurant must include an entrée, side dish and beverage which contain 600 calories or less, plus meet other nutritional criteria.
As dietitians at Cooper Clinic we are excited about this step that restaurants are taking to offer our children more healthy options. We challenge parents to give guidance to their kids, helping them make the right choices most of the time when eating out. As a parent it is important to serve as a good role model for kids in the eating arena. When your family dines out, try to order fruit, vegetables or a salad instead of fries. Most restaurants have this option. If your kids must have fries, split them between several people. We also recommend ordering water or low-fat milk for a beverage and a grilled chicken sandwich or deli sandwich for an entrée.
To read the full press release from the National Restaurant Association, click here.
Now that warmer weather is upon us, it’s time to get outside and get moving! Cooper Fitness Center offers multiple ways for children and families alike to enjoy the outdoors—and indoors—while having fun and exercising. Cooper Fitness Center Youth Programs Director Meredith Rosson answers your questions about activities for the entire family.
How can I get my kids Cooperized at Cooper Fitness Center? Our youth programs are based on the philosophy that no child is too young to learn the importance of caring for their health. Through our various classes and activities, we provide kids and teens with age-appropriate health and wellness tools in a fun, active, encouraging and enriching environment. Our goal is to help them achieve optimal health now and as they grow older and to educate them through experience and enjoyment.
- IGNITE! IGNITE! is for ages 8-12, and combines fitness, sports, movement and games to help improve athletic performance. The exercises and activities focus on agility, coordination, endurance, balance, speed, power and strength while promoting a healthy lifestyle and teaching the fundamentals of fitness.
- Cooperized Kidz Now your kids can work out whenever you do. Designed for ages 18 months through 12 years, Cooperized Kidz classes last 30 to 45 minutes and include everything from basketball to hip-hop. Your kids will have so much fun they won’t even know they’re exercising.
- Holiday, Spring Break and Summer Fit and Fun Camps Cooper Fitness Center camps are an excellent way for your children ages 5 to 12 to enjoy their school vacations. As a bonus, they also learn about the importance of good health and nutrition while having fun playing games and sports and making new friends.
- Sport Academies Whether your kids want to try a new sport or improve their skills in a sport they already enjoy, Cooper Fitness Center’s sports camps and academies offer training for all skill levels. Choose from basketball, swimming, tennis, martial arts, and much more.
What family activities are available at Cooper Fitness Center? Cooper Fitness Center offers a variety of fitness activities for families. Whether you are looking for a sport-specific lesson or general fitness classes, we offer it all for children and adults.
- Martial Arts
- Fitness Adherence Programs
- Run Proud 5K and Kiddie K completion as a family
- Parents are encouraged to participate in the Cooperized Kidz classes with their kids
- Annual nutrition lecture put on by Cooper Clinic nutrition department
What can families do at home for fitness fun? When you don’t feel like driving to the gym, there are plenty of ways to get fit at home.
- If it is way too hot to move around outside, try Kinect for Xbox 360. Your body is truly the remote control and you work up a sweat inside together as a family. The recommendation I make to families is to set guidelines and let kids know the Xbox 360 is only to be used with Kinect games—not the kind of video games that have them sit on the couch for hours on end.
- Go camping as a family. You can enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, cruising the river or lake on a paddle boat or canoe, and more. Everyone is sure to have a great time.
- Take a family bike ride to your favorite park. Pack a healthy picnic and have the kids help with healthy food options. Bring a Frisbee for some guaranteed laughs and calorie burner.
For more information on Cooper Fitness Center youth programs, contact Meredith Rosson at 972.233.4832 or visit cooperyouth.com.
Also check out our online collection of Health Tips for additional family and child fitness articles including In Your Corner: Family Fitness at Home This Summer.
Do you want your kids active in a program that combines athletic training, nutrition, and education, and is a ton of fun? We have just what you’re looking for.
Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! youth fitness program is back this fall and quickly becoming the after-school activity of choice for many kids. They’re playing sports, games, and other fitness activities, and having a blast.
Ten-year-old Alexandra Gholi, a student at Parish Episcopal School, has participated in IGNITE! since the program began last December. Every week she looks forward to her IGNITE! Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Here’s what she says about the program.
Q. Do you play any sports or have some favorite sports to participate in?
A. Yes, I play soccer, softball, and I like to swim.
Q. What do you enjoy most about IGNITE!?
A. I feel like IGNITE! helps me become a better athlete. It’s fun to do after school and it’s a good workout after sitting in school all day.
Q. How has IGNITE! helped you in sports?
A. I can tell that my endurance has increased.
Q. What do you think about Coach Shannon Edwards?
A. He is a good coach and he helps push me when I feel like I want to stop.
Q. Why do you keep coming back to IGNITE!?
A. I know it helps me stay in shape and I like it!
Designed to help youth ages 8-12 develop their athletic skills, IGNITE! exercises and activities focus on agility, coordination, endurance, balance, speed, power, and strength. The program also teaches the importance of making healthy choices and the fundamentals of fitness.
For more information or to register, visit CooperYouth.com or contact Meredith Rosson, Director of Youth Programs at Cooper Fitness Center, at 972.233.4832 ext. 6402 for more information on program dates.