Vigorous, sustained exercise is more effective at helping children stay fit than low-intensity exercise.
More Than 40 Minutes
A recent study of almost 800 children, ages 9 and 10, measured their activity levels over four days. Those children who engaged in vigorous physical activity for over 40 minutes each day had less body fat and better cardiovascular fitness than those who were only vigorously active for 10 to 18 minutes a day.
Total Daily Activity
The total daily physical activity, as opposed to the intensity, did not affect body fat, although it was associated with better cardiovascular fitness.
This makes perfect sense, especially considering that another recent report found intensive strength training lowers a teen's risk of type 2 diabetes, one of the major problems caused by the current obesity epidemic.
The most important concept about exercise when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off: Treat it like a drug that must be precisely prescribed to do the most good. And that usually requires far more intensity than the occasional walk around the block.
Thirty percent of children in the United States are overweight. Like most problems in life, preventing childhood obesity is far easier than treating it, although much of the success of prevention depends on parental involvement, and communication is the key.
You will not only need to set appropriate guidelines and talk to your children about nutrition and why what they are doing is so important, you will need to take the time necessary to create nutritious meals and snacks for them to eat.
Perhaps even more importantly, you will need to act as a good role model for them. After all, it is completely unfair to your children to ask them not to eat things they later see you eating.
I have three powerful recommendations for your children's health and well-being:
TV is one of the most pernicious influences and I couldn't recommend stopping it more strongly. Not only will it decrease your children's activity levels, but also it will expose them to commercials promoting worthless foods.
It is crucial if you are a parent to step in and set guidelines as to how much TV your children should watch. It is also helpful to encourage them to participate in sports or other physical activities instead of watching TV.