writing services


as seen in:

is your family fit? (Featured in metro toronto parent magazine)

Fitness most beneficial when it is a family affair

by Christina Friedrichsen

Perhaps you’ve had a grueling day at work, or a full day at home with your loveable, but demanding crew of little ones.
You’re grateful that the day is winding down, because it means that you will finally find a few uninterrupted moments for yourself.
But instead of making a beeline to the couch, you’ll tie your hair back, lace up your running shoes, change into your most comfortable spandex, and despite the snowy skies, head enthusiastically out the door for a 5 km run.
Does this sound like you? Or does this sound like someone you admire?
When you have a family, it’s difficult to find the time and motivation to exercise. Besides, who wants to sweat during those few moments of delicious solitude?
Despite our many excuses, we all know that it is crucial to fit some form of physical activity into our routines. Not only is it good for our own health, it sets an example for our children.
A recent study conducted by Penn State University found that even if one parent exercises, it could have a positive impact on a child’s activity level.
In the study, which surveyed a total of 176 central Pennsylvania nine year olds and their parents, fathers who were active, and who used their own behavior to encourage behavior, as well as provided logistic support for their daughter’s activity, were shown to have daughters who were significantly more active.
Mothers in the study did virtually no physical activity, and had no impact on the likelihood that their daughters would be active.
If children learn by example, then what kind of example are we setting by sitting in front of the television, or computer during our free time?
A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that the average Canadian child sits for three to five hours each day in front of the TV.
Are children learning this behavior from us?
Could our own lack of exercise as adults, be part of the reason that children are 40 percent less active than they were 30 years ago? Could our own inability to find the time for fitness be contributing to the fact that obesity rates among children five to eight years old have more than doubled to 40 percent?
Dr. Dino D’Aloisio, a medical doctor and owner of Pro-Med Wellness Services in Amherstburg, ON says the best way to motivate a child to exercise is to involve the entire family in an activity.
“If a child sees mom and dad in front of the TV every night … and the other siblings are doing the same thing, it’s going to be hard to motivate that child and say; ‘Get to the gym or go play a sport’,” says D’Aloisio.
In his clinic, D’Aloisio has treated numerous children with weight problems. Instead of simply treating the child, he gets the parents involved.
“A lot of times when you look at a child who is overweight or out of shape, the parents are about the same. That’s where it starts,” he says.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada also argues that parents are the most influential role models for children and that the best way to teach a child the importance of exercising is to lead by example.
If offers several suggestions on getting the entire family involved in regular physical activity.
Firstly, a family should agree on a regular time to meet for exercise. Whether it’s after school, or on weekends, family members should be able to set aside enough time each week to devote to an activity. Why not devote that hour of television every other night, to some form of family fitness?
Family members should then make a list of activities that they enjoy on a collective basis. In winter, cross-country skiing, hockey or indoor tennis and swimming could be fun family activities. When the weather’s warm, there is rollerblading, cycling, canoeing, or hiking to name a few. If there’s a pet in the family, why not walk the dog as a fun, after-school family activity?
Encouraging children to join sports teams at school also has many benefits. According to a recent Statistics Canada report, children and teens that participate in sports and clubs after school perform better in the classroom and have higher self-esteem and better social skills.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada points out that while there is value in competitive activities, parents should place an emphasis on participation rather than winning.

Exercising safely

D’Aloisio says children should do some type of cardiovascular activity, which could include play activity, 20-30 minutes each day
He says there is no need for a healthy child to be checked out by a physician before she starts a fitness program, or gets involved in a sport, unless she has a weight problem.
“If a child is overweight, then she should probably get screened to make sure there are no problems such as diabetes,” he says.
In order to help prevent injuries, it is just as important for a child to warm up before exercising, as it is for an adult, explains D’Aloisio.
“A lot of kids don’t like warming up and stretching. They want to get right in there and work out,” he says. “You ‘ve got to spend about 15 minutes or so, with a combination of warming up and stretching.”
If a child has just eaten a meal, it is important for her to wait at least 45 minutes before engaging in any kind of activity so the food has a chance to digest, D’Aloisio says. Otherwise, a child might get cramps.
Drinking plenty of water before and after exercising is important, he points out, adding that replenishment drinks such as Gatorade are also good after physical activity. D’Aloisio says children should stay away from drinks with a high sugar content.
Once a child is done exercising, she should wait a half an hour to an hour before eating a meal.
When she does eat, she should include a protein drink, or another source of protein such as cheese or meat during her meal, in order to replenish the protein lost during her work- out, explains D’Aloisio.