GET ACTIVE, BABY!
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is calling for babies and all children under the age of 5 years old to get 3 hours of physical activity every day, even before they can walk! This is the latest initiative in the NHS’s fight against obesity. We know that overweight children are more likely to have weight problems as adults so the thinking here is to establish good habits at as young an age as possible.
But how can a baby do a workout? Well according to the NHS, simple things like putting babies on their backs and letting them kick their legs can be a valuable form of exercise. Similarly, supervised ‘tummy time’ where you let your baby push up on their arms or roll over, crawling, taking them swimming with you, or even helping them to take their first steps while you hold onto them can all help to get baby active. And when your baby gets a little older and grows into the toddler stage, think about letting them walk with you sometimes, instead of always pushing them around in a stroller. The idea is to minimize the time that they spend sitting, inactive. And if 3 hours seems like a lot of time, the NHS says that the benefits accrue even if you do the physical activity in smaller chunks spread throughout the day.
IT CAN’T HURT
The problem of obesity in our society is a difficult and complex one, and there is no one magic solution that will solve it. In fact, there’s no definitive evidence (yet) that getting babies and children active will lower obesity rates. But on an intuitive level, it probably can’t hurt and it may be helpful in developing good habits for physical activity later in life. The activities that the NHS is suggesting in their new guidelines are actually nothing new – they have been recommended for a long time to aid in the normal development of your child, it’s just that now they are being re-framed in the context of fighting obesity.
A couple of words of caution - when encouraging physical activity for kids, especially the littlest ones, remember to put safety first! That means helmets for biking , rollerskating and any other activity that carries the risk of head injuries, and adult supervision for swimming and water sports and any other potentially dangerous activities.
And let’s not get carried away with the anti-obesity measures – it’s normal for babies and young children to have a little extra fat on their bodies, and we don’t want to be too obsessive or restrictive about food. Kids need enough calories and a variety of foods to grow up happy and healthy.
For more ideas from the NHS about how to get your child active, see: http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/birthtofive/Pages/Keepingactive.aspx
For a guide to ensuring that your child is getting the proper nutrition, see: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/choose-choix/advice-conseil/child-enfant-eng.php
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