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Healthy living trumps convenience when raising kids, says researcher: Video
By Derek Abma, Postmedia News March 28, 2012
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Tue, Mar 27: To curb childhood obesity, Canada now has exercise guidelines targeting pre-schoolers. Christina Stevens reports.
Convenience is the enemy when it comes to instilling healthy lifestyle habits in your children, says a researcher who helped establish new recommendations on how active young kids should be.
Mark Tremblay, with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, was referring to things such as televisions, computers and video games that can occupy children's attention when parents are trying to wash dishes, tidy the house or just relax a little. For babies, high chairs and bouncy mechanisms that keep them contained often fulfil this role.
"People need to understand that the word 'convenience' is a bad word," said Tremblay. "It's a bad word physiologically. It's a bad word sociologically. It's a bad word in terms of family dynamics.
"It's convenient to let (children) play video games or to let them have a TV in their room . . . but it's bad. It's not good for the child's development, and in the long term, not going to be good for the parent."
Tremblay is chairman of the guidelines committee for the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, which on Tuesday released recommendations saying children between the ages of one and four should accumulate at least three hours of physical activity a day.
Getting them outside, having them climb stairs, running and even dancing are among the various things parents are asked to encourage their children of this age to do.
Children younger than one should be "physically active several times daily," say the guidelines, which fitness advocacy group ParticipAction also helped to develop. This can include things such as "tummy time" on the floor, crawling and activities that include grabbing and reaching.
The recommendations also state that children between two and four should get less than one hour per day of screen time, which includes TV watching, video-game playing, and usage of computers and other electronics. Children younger than two should not get any screen time, the guidelines say.
As for advice to parents who, to make their own lives easier, use TVs and electronics as distractions for their children, Tremblay said: "Take a good look at your priorities, and if spending time with your kids and getting active yourself and with your kids isn't a sufficiently high priority, then maybe you need to reflect on those priorities.
"The dishes can wait maybe until the child's in bed," said the father of four, who added with respect to his own family, "We made it work."
Tremblay said young children are not as active as they were in past generations, and it's showing with more childhood obesity and related health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. He said spiralling health-care costs are not just the result of an aging population, but also because of more health problems among children, much of it related to inactivity.
Shannon Molenaar, a Toronto mother of two boys — two-year-old Tyler and four-month-old Trevor — said her kids are active, but until now, she didn't pay much attention to the exact amount of time they spent doing things.
After seeing these new guidelines, she feels her children are close to the standard that's recommended. However, she said she'll now try to get both out of the stroller more often on walks.
"I put them in the stroller a lot of the times because it's easier for me when we go for long walks," she said.
Molenaar said her youngest son does not get any screen time, but admitted that Tyler, who turns three in May, likely is surpassing the one-hour daily limit with gadgets such as the family's iPhone and iPad.
"It's almost an easy way if I'm cooking dinner or I'm breastfeeding with the baby," she said. "That's one area where we could do better."
The groups behind the recommendations say they are the first-ever "evidence-based" guidelines in Canada for children this young.
Bone development, motor skills, social skills and long-term habits are among the things that can be positively influenced by regular physical activity at a young age, the advocacy groups say.
Last year, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released activity guidelines for other age groups. They called for one hour a day, accumulated, of moderate-to-vigorous activity for children of the ages five to 17, and 2 1/2 hours a week for adults.
How long have we been hearing about the PE magic solution? Why?Who funds it? What is their stance on stigma?