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Less sedentary time crucial for children’s health

3 Apr

When you teach high schoolers, as I did for a number of years, there are very few things that they do that will really surprise you. But spend a day shadowing any student and you will be astounded at how much sedentary time they have: they sit on their way to and from school, they sit for hours on end in class after class, they sit down while they eat lunch with their friends, they go home to sit down and spend hours cranking out homework and updating their Facebook status.

Play time!

Perhaps the student gets a moment of rest from all this sitting to spend an hour or two at a team practice for a sport. Perhaps not. But with how much sedentary time children and students have, we have to wonder how this affects their health.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the association between vigorous physical activity and sedentary time amongst healthy children. Examining cardiometabolic measures–i.e. waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, fasting lipoprotein, and fasting insulin–across more than 20,000 children and adolescents, the study suggests that minimal sedentary time, or more movement through the day, is more important to health than brief bouts of formal, intense exercise in the gym, during a practice, or in a PE class. In other words, time spent in sedentary behavior all day can undo the benefits gained from formal exercise.

The point? Moving more throughout the day–even slow and unstructured movement–is more important to your child’s health than living mostly sedentary with occasional exercise.

It’s important to note that activity is not necessarily just another thing that we do–another box we check off from our to-do lists–but a way of living. Activity is an underlying characteristic to the things we do day to day. To live an active lifestyle does not necessarily mean joining all kinds of teams and clubs and gyms, thus making ourselves even busier than we already are. Living actively means enjoying movement throughout your day.

But what do we do with this? With the pace that we can run in life and the number of things on our plate, sometimes it feels like it is all we can do to get our children out of the chair for those few moments of activity during their PE classes or team practices.

So, take small steps. Here are some ideas. If your child enjoys video games and you own an Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii, encourage them to take a “brain break” every 30 minutes or so from their homework for a quick game of ping-pong or tennis. Create challenges for your children each month such as walking or riding their bike (if possible) to and from school. Encourage your children to read their school books while standing up for 10 minutes instead of hunched over the text. Or think up quick five minute games to do during the commercial breaks of your children’s favorite TV shows like playing paddy-cake with your feet instead of your hands (don’t laugh, it’s actually quite difficult).

Perhaps you have already taken steps to encourage more unstructured movement time in your children’s daily routines. If so, please post to the comments to share your ideas and keep the dialogue going. Slow and steady wins the race.

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We are FIT

9 May
IMG_8979_2 by traceydowning
IMG_8979_2, a photo by traceydowning on Flickr.

Today, I Brought it!

Little League Baseball – Spring Training

8 Apr

Spring is here and so is beginning of the Little League baseball season, weather permitting!  You’ll be making plenty of trips to the ballpark for practice and games, and often becoming just as much of a coach for your child as you are a proud parent and fan.  Because most youth throwing injuries occur while pitching, I wanted to throw out a few tips and bring to your attention some of the factors that may reduce injury risk for youth pitchers.

How Kids Learn
Whether in practices or games, seek to create an effective learning environment with young players. There are various styles of learning. The three primary modes are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and an efficient teaching plan includes all three modalities.

Basic Movements
Don’t neglect the basic movement patterns that are involved in pitching and baseball in general.  All too often emphasis is placed on getting players’ arms in shape, but no attention is paid to preparing the rest of their bodies for the sport. Baseball pitching requires fundamental movements such as stepping, lunging, squatting, twisting, and balancing. Most kids are getting enough of these movements just playing at school, but if you feel your child needs more exercise to prepare for the baseball season, get them active with these fundamental movements.

Warming Up
Make sure to engage in a full body warm-up, not just the throwing arm, before throwing or pitching.  A full body warm-up elevates core body temperature, enhances motor unit excitability, helps maximize active Range of Motion (ROM) and is effective for reducing injuries in all sports. Basically, make them break a sweat before throwing!

Pitch Volume
Pitch volume is a significant factor in the injury of youth pitchers. All Little Leagues appropriately have pitch count rules in place, but pitch volume can be defined as the number of pitches thrown in a season, not just games.  This should include games, pre-game warm-up, scheduled practices as well as unorganized practices with friends and even Mom and Dad!  Several studies have confirmed that there was a 35% increase in elbow pain in athletes aged 9-12 years old who are throwing greater than 75 pitches a game and 600 pitches in a season.  I have not come across studies that attempt to count the number of pitches thrown outside of games and organized practices throughout a full year of baseball competition. Keeping tabs on your child’s pitch volume and encouraging him/her to communicate feeling fatigue and/or pain will help reduce overuse injuries.

Pitch Type
Another main contributor to injury is the pitch type. Several studies have recommended youth baseball pitchers not to throw breaking pitches (curveball and slider). This recommendation is based on the fact that throwing breaking pitches requires increased forearm supination and wrist movement when compared with the fastball.  The difference in hand, wrist and forearm positioning may lead to greater elbow stress and potential injury.  Overall, I recommended that youth baseball pitchers focus on the basic fundamental movements and the mechanics of pitching (balance point, stride, throwing elbow height, follow through).   After mastery of these fundamentals, focus on fastball pitching mechanics followed by change-up pitching mechanics. Both pitches should be executed with accuracy before introducing curveballs or sliders.

Resistance Training
Resistance training may reduce the risk of injury in youth sports by changing the size, density and mechanical properties of connective tissue structures.  (Marsh, 2010)  Other benefits of resistance training include recruitment and activation of muscles and enhanced coordination.   Strengthening muscles and connective tissues also allows for increased forces that athletes are capable of sustaining, reducing the risk of injury. The muscles of the trunk are particularly important in pitching. The trunk is where the force generated by the legs is transferred to the throwing arm and ball to maximize pitching efficiency and velocity.
Remember Little Leaguers are just kids.  They need to learn how to play the game and how to interact and work with teammates.  Above all, keep them safe and encourage them to have fun.

Reference:
Darrin Marsh, PT, ATC, CSCS, Department of Physical Therapy, McCarter Health Center, Parkensburg, West Virginia. “Little League Elbow: Risk Factors and Prevention.” December 2010 Strength and Conditioning Journal

Spring Break Fitness Camp

25 Mar

Get your kids involved in some fun physical activity during their Spring Break.  This camp will offer energetic exercises that promote coordination, balance and confidence.  Some examples of activities include: active warm-ups, quick foot ladder drills, and basic body weight exercises. To sign up, or for additional information, please contact FIT at 650-947-9831 or email Kevin English at Kevin@focusedtrainers.com.

Spring Break Fitness Camp is offered to children grades 1st through 5th.
Class size is limited and advance sign up is required.
Registration deadline is Friday April 8th.

Camp Sessions:
Monday            4/11   12pm-1pm

Wednesday      4/13   12pm-1pm

Thursday          4/14   12pm-1pm

Cost: $15 per child per class

Location: FIT 600 Fremont Ave (Rancho Shopping Center) Los Altos

Halloween: To Treat or Too Sweet?

1 Oct

If you are not looking forward to the massive sugar explosion that is often unleashed on both children and parents during Halloween, we’ve compiled a list of  alternative treat suggestions.

At home treats – instead of the bowl of mini-candy bars

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark: Melt 2-3 organic dark chocolate (80%-90%) bars.  Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle raw, organic almonds (or slice/crush if you prefer) across melted chocolate and place in freezer for minimum of 60 minutes.  Break into pieces and enjoy.

Dark Chocolate CocoNut Balls: Mix 1c almonds, 1c pecans, 1/2c walnuts in the food processor and set aside.  Mix 6 pitted dates with 1 tbsp raw, virgin coconut oil, and add to the nut mixture slowly until all is mixed thoroughly in the food processor.  While running food processor, add 1tsp of pure vanilla extract and 1 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Add 2-3 tbsp raw coconut (if desired).  Scoop mixture out of processing bowl and mold into small balls (fitting in your palm) and place in the freezer (in tupperware or on parchment paper) for at least 60 minutes.  Once they are firm, melt 1 dark chocolate bar (80%), and drizzle the melted chocolate over balls, placing back in the freezer for at least 60 minutes.  Enjoy.

Roasted Nuts: In gallon-size ziploc bag, toss 1c each: raw almonds, walnuts, pecans and/or cashews in 2-3 tbsp heated coconut oil (liquid).  When all nuts are covered, place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, celtic sea salt, making sure to cover all nuts.  Roast for up to 15 minutes at 350.  Keep an eye on them as the coconut oil will heat up quickly!  These are great placed in a bowl and left around the house to snack on.

Instead of handing out candy, try:

Raw nuts or dried fruit purchased at the farmers market

Raw apples (they’re in season! yeah!)

Mini bagged carrots (they look like fingers – scary!)

String Cheese

Boxes of raisins

Mini dark chocolate covered raisins

If you choose to go the non-food route, school supplies and fun treat-bags often get a smile and a giggle too!  Think of mini-slinkies, koosh balls, erasers, and kids sunglasses.

If you have suggestions that you’d like to share, please email analisa@focusedtrainers.com .

2010 FIT Summer Camp Wrap Up!

7 Sep

My hope is the successes, skills and knowledge these kids obtained during the camp will last them a lifetime.

The 2010 camp was a great success! Our campers enjoyed a fulfilling fitness experience that left them with a great sense of accomplishment and Joy.  Each child set an individual weekly goal, such as a personal best for the 1 mile run, climbing the rope, or jumping higher, and I am happy to say almost every goal was met! The hard work and dedication that these young people showed was truly amazing.  Many of the attendees enjoyed the experience so much they signed up for multiple weeks of camp.  As a coach, watching these young kids work so hard was inspiring!  My hope is the successes, skills and knowledge these kids obtained during the camp will last them a lifetime.

I commend the parents for signing their children up for a camp that is focused around fitness. This is a great step in paving the way for the future health of their children. A child’s self perception of exercise is formed by their parents, as well as personal experiences and environments (Presidents council on physical fitness). If this view is tainted at a young age, our young people may shy away from exercise and digress into a sedentary lifestyle that will negatively affect them for a lifetime. Doctor Weiss stated
“Significant adults are primed to structure the environment and exhibit behaviors that
enhance children’s physical competency beliefs, self-esteem, and enjoyment of physical activity. In turn, these perceptions and emotions are the keys to solving the mystery of motivating kids in physical activity.” (Maureen R. Weiss, Ph.D.)

The youth programs at FIT strive to promote a healthy active lifestyle for all young people and will continue to offer year round programs for kids and teens. These goal based fitness programs will enable your child to be part of a positive group environment that will help them shape a healthy outlook for the future.  For more information and current camp schedules, please contact Frank Knapp frank@focusedtrainers.com

References:
Research Digest-series 3, Volume 11. Sept 2000

Kids Teach Us A Lot About Food

8 Mar

As a father of two children, I have learned a ton about my kids when it comes to food. Like anybody who grew up watching numerous episodes of “Married with Children” and “Roseanne”, I try to stay lighthearted when it comes to how my kids may behave. Unfortunately, the “parenting portion” of my lighthearted-perspective may take more time to develop than my nutrition perspective.

When my first child, Keala, was ready to be introduced to whole foods after breast milk, I was excited to introduce her into the world of nutrition. Once she was able to tolerate more variety of food, I was involved every step of the way. It was my way  of being able to help physically develop my daughter more directly than when she was breastfeeding alone.

I was excited. Just like when she was breasfeeding, I wanted to make sure she was getting a healthy supply of healthy fats. I had mixed Udo’s Perfected Blend of oil with her cereal, she was trying some of my oatmeal mixed with Natural Muscle Milk, and there was always a plethora of any and all fruits and veggies I could find and finally, my greatest accomplishment, Children’s fish oil which Keala calls “jelly beans” today.  Keala developed into eating a great array of foods as soups, stews, raw or roasts. She would eat virtually whatever was put in front of her. She is also one of the few kids that will eat very little amounts of chocolate ice cream or candy when you put a large amount of it in front of her. She would willingly push it away and say something like, “That’s enough” (I have to confess, I have no idea how this happened as I did not intentionally make this happen). Today, she is six-years-old and she knows a number of foods that are classified as junk food and which foods are healthy. I ask her why is something junk food and she tells me, “Because there’s sugar in there”. That’s good enough for me.

Somehow, in her open-minded eating, I was spoiled by her willingness to try any food.  Keala was clearing over all of the often problematic food hurdles, such as green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, dinuguan and pinakbet. I had succeeded! My ideal child rearing for eating has developed into eating habits I am proud of today. I thought I had a system of parental child rearing for nutrition down like Martha Stewart had a system for  improving a 401K portfolio.

However, another (and more challenging foodie) child entered the world, my son, Tristan. Again, I thought I had another willing participant in my unshakable food-introduction system. Well, I always knew that having one child did not make me an expert as a parent, but now I learned that I did not know crap when it came to how to convince a child on choosing and relishing the most nutritious foods.

Long story short, if there was such a thing as “eating antonyms” in this world of eating habits, it would be comparing Keala to Tristan. Tristan is now three years old and he will say, “I can’t,” before trying anything. 

Ever since he could eat food, he is all about eating one type of food: starch – noodles, spaghetti, corn, any assortment of potato chips, mashed potatoes and, his favorite, French fries. If there was not a more stubborn specimen of eating that walked this earth, I do not know who it could be. Quite frankly, he would rather starve himself than not have one of his preferred processed, white foods available to eat. If I try to force him to eat something else, he will either eat a small bite of whatever it is or put it in his mouth, chew a little and spit it out…no matter how delicious or healthy it may be.

Because of this, I have always worried that some sort of health issue may arise. Thus far, he has shown to be a healthy boy. However, because he was going to be so stubborn to eat only what he wants, I realized that I would have to get ahead of this eating game – some adjustments on my end as a parent would have to occur instead of mandating his menu.

So, I began to provide more healthy options for him. Instead of potato chips, he will get sweet potato chips or flaxseed nachos; if he gets rice, he will only have it with a protein, such as eggs, mixed with it. He refused to eat plain seeds and nuts, but he will eat sunflower seeds that are covered in chocolate that look like M&M’s – finally he can get a variety of monounsaturated fats into his diet.

As a parent, I realize that I needed to become more creative  for Tristan’s nutrition. Obviously I cannot be there at every moment that he eats, but I have learned that if it is not available for him to eat, there is a greater likelihood he will try something else. The same rules apply to us as adults.

Many of us are not willing to change our eating habits for healthier options when they are available. Sometimes eating healthier for us means not buying the processed foods that tempt us. It can really be that simple: If it is not in the house, it will not be consumed.

As adults, knowing that there are healthier options available and not taking advantage of them is irresponsible. Perhaps, instead of believing that when another individual suggests to try something different, there does not need to be an “all or nothing” attitude. For example, certain vegetables taste better when paired with salad dressing or cheese. If the only thing keeping us from eating broccoli is because we only eat it drenched in cheese, then by all means have it with the cheese, but keep a goal of eating it alone without the cheese. With time, we can lessen the amount of added topping and try to achieve eating fresh broccoli alone.

When it comes to dessert, I have found myself asking, “Why can Keala push away her ice cream cone and I have to finish not only my own but everybody elses?” If a six-year-old can do it, then why can’t I?

The transition does not need to happen over night,  and just like Tristan, it may take quite a while and you may need to be flexible and patient in your solution. Although you know that there is your own “eating ideal”, as I have in Keala, out there, there is a road that you need to travel to help you get there.