A Different Gift List

child skiiing

The holiday season is right around the corner. Many people dread the holidays due to the increased amounts of parties and special foods, which may result in weight gain by the beginning of the New Year. Have you ever thought about giving gifts of activity and exercise? Before you think that this is a ridiculous idea, what is the research telling us?

Children who are overweight when they enter Kindergarten are 50 percent more likely to be overweight as teens and adults. Their percentage of obesity increases with their age.

Children who spend more time on a "screen" will spend less time on activity or outdoor play during the day. The more hours a child or teen spends watching a screen—television, computer, tablet, gaming and even playing on a phone—the greater their weight. All "screen time" should be limited to two hours or less daily.

The more time teens and children spend on a screen, the less time they spend with their family. It has been theorized that today’s children will have shorter and less healthy lives than their parents. What can we do to change these statistics? Begin my making this Christmas a "No Electronics Christmas."

Preschoolers need activities that engage all their muscle groups for indoor and outdoor play. Ideally they should play outside for at least 30 minutes in the morning and the afternoon. Screen time should be minimal, as they will do most of their learning by trial and error and beginning to problem solve.

A school-age child will be able to use sleds, snowboards, bikes, skates and outdoor game equipment for the 45 minutes or more they should be engaging in outside activity.
Remove televisions and all electronics from bedrooms, as the light source prevents deep sleep. Deep sleep is important to assist with weight control and growth.

Since teens need more sleep than school-age children, remove televisions from their rooms. You may wish to have an electronics nighttime basket that they put all their devices into at a certain time at night to limit use. Some teens may benefit from exercise monitoring bands to achieve at least 10,000 steps daily.

Parents also will benefit from limiting screen time. Research indicates that all electronic devices should be turned off at least 45 minutes before trying to sleep, in order to achieve sleep shortly after going to bed. We can’t expect our children to exercise if we don’t do it ourselves. Consider family passes for golfing, water parks and skating places. Plan activities on the weekends that promote family activities, from walking in the neighborhood to family ski trips.

Everyone can benefit from a "No Electronics Christmas," with the best benefit being better health and weight that is closer to the ideal range.

Shirley Poole, RD, CSP, LDN, is a dietician at SwedishAmerican.