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Get Kids Off The Couch

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Dear Dr. Levister: How can I get my 8 and 9-year-old couch potatoes moving. They don't seem to like organized sports. R.S.

Dear R.S.: One-third of California school children are considered overweight, according recently released results of the state's Physical Fitness test, and only a third of children are considered fit enough to complete six physical tests.

With so many distractions for kids not to exercise, from video games to computers and the fattening of America taking place at an ever increasing pace, kids are more unfit than any other time in our history.

Overall, African-American children are statistically the fattest compared with their white and Latino counterparts. And fat kids mean unhealthy kids. Obese children and adolescents are at increased risk for developing cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Unfortunately, obesity isn’t something kids outgrow; obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

In major studies during the last ten years, children from the ages of six to 17 scored extremely low in areas of strength, flexibility, and cardio respiratory endurance.

Children, teenagers, and adults need to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. However, it's estimated that only one in three American children participate in daily physical activity. And about one-fourth of all adults and young people from the ages of 12 to 21 are getting no vigorous exercise at all.

Community and school-based programs have a major impact on kids’ health, but good health habits start at home. The two biggest things are clearly diet and exercise; parents are the gatekeepers and the biggest role models for kids.

First, get rid of the junk food in the house. Your kids will be better off with healthier options like fruit and homemade treats.

Next, practice what you preach. Active adults inspire their children to be fit and healthy. That means turning of the TV, logging off the Internet and taking time to do something physical together.

It can be as simple as taking a walk or a bike ride or just playing in the park or the yard. Reap the physical benefits and create a low-stress environment to open dialogue and improve your relationship with your child. And while you’re at it, give their brain a workout, too: Stop by the library and get a book.

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