Matt Heeren, M.D., a pediatrician with the NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Vacaville, urges his young patients to be active to avoid gaining weight. And his commitment doesn’t end at the office. On Tuesdays he volunteers at North Davis Elementary School, helping his wife, Kristen Muir, teach her award-winning fitness program.
Six years ago, Muir was a volunteer in their son’s first-grade class. With physical education cut from the budget, the children had no outlet for their energy. Recognizing that while not all kids are athletic, they can all be active, she developed a program called “Kids in Motion.”
The program is based on the idea of giving children active play so they don’t realize they’re exercising. The children rotate among stations that could include relay races, jumping rope, fitness exercises, and games that encourage teamwork and coordination. The activities focus on cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance, strength training, endurance and sports-related skills.
Kids in Motion is now used by several schools and Muir’s program recently won second place in the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Challenge.
“Getting kids active early is a good way to avoid the obesity problems that so many have,” says Dr. Heeren, a father of three. “I encourage parents to lead by example, and join their kids in activities to get them moving.”
Lean Kids Don’t Drink Sugar
Exercise alone won’t keep kids slim without careful control of their diets, Dr. Heeren advises. He says the biggest contributor to children’s weight gain is drinking too many sugar-filled liquids.
“By age 2 children should be getting most of their calories from solid food,” Dr. Heeren says. “But many parents let their children continue drinking high calorie liquids, including fruit juices and soda.”
If you notice a child’s excess weight early, you can make small changes to correct the problem before they’re heading toward obesity.
“When kids are thirsty, give them a glass of water,” Dr. Heeren says.
Tips to Get Kids Active
- Let kids ride their bikes to school. It’s a guaranteed daily activity.
- Take a daily walk with your kids.
- Choose the game and go outside and play with your kids.
- Ask your kids to teach you a game.
- Limit TV and computer time.
- Wash the car.
- Toss a Frisbee.
- Sign up for a charity walk-a-thon.
- Enroll your child in a martial arts class.
- Take your kids swimming.