Most fitness websites, articles, and posts are focused on the 25-59 age demographic, as clearly this is the group that cares (or worries) the most about their bodies. But I think we need to pay a little more attention to the “befores” and “afters” if we are to truly reduce the rampant obesity that plagues America for our future generations
First off we’ve got to teach the current (and future) generation of kids to move more, eat better, and specifically make fitness an equal priority to school work and time spent just being a kid. Get them off their electronics and using their muscles, training their cardiovascular systems, and keeping circulation and metabolisms running on high.
Next however, we need to tend to our current crop of seniors (60-85+). For most people in this age rage, fitness was probably not a priority during their youth, and therefore the taste for it, as well as the ability to embrace it, is quite low. However, if we modify our approach to fitness for seniors we can still give them improvements to their deteriorating health and bodies while not trying to turn them into fitness addicts – which they’re never going to be. If we, the 25-59-ers make it our priority to get our parents/grandparents moving and staying active, we will show all generations that physical age can have fewer boundaries than previously set. (Not to mention that keeping the body active stimulates the brain and keeps it active too!)
While many fitness organizations or programs do focus on kids or seniors, there still isn’t enough enticing options to keep those that are young and easily distracted, or old and easily deterred from continuing on fitness as a priority. Sadly schools throughout the U.S. have dropped standard P.E. programs due to budget cutbacks, and senior centers are fewer and less populated, especially outside of major cities.
So what I suggest is that each family design a weekly program or routine for everyone in the family, from 2 to 80. Include as many generations together as possible. Make fitness diverse, fun, satisfying, and easy to do and everyone will keep coming back for more. For kids, make it a game; or a group challenge; or create personal best goal chart.
For the grandfolk, take it slow, but always add a little more to each day/week/month. Include incentives that work for them like a daily/weekly walk to update them on family affairs or discuss current affairs. Take them on a picnic or to the movies while parking a little further away than normal, or conduct a chair workout, etc. If they simply can’t be made more mobile, stimulate their brains with jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or get them telling stories of their youth that you can document for prosperity and family history.
As our year comes to a close, I charge all of you to think of ways to get your kids and/or your elderly parents more active, document their growth, and share it here. If it takes a village, let this “cosmic” village be the test ground to show that our next generations will be leaner, more active, and live longer than the previous ones.
We all know that childhood obesity is on the rise. In fact, one-third of all American children ages 6-17 are clinically obese (more than 20% body fat). The first remedy is of course nutrition, which I have addressed more than once in this blog. But the second and equally important remedy is exercise – or movement in general. Between higher educational demands, homework loads, and video games/TV being used as babysitters or “decompress time” — our kids just aren’t moving like we used to. (Let’s not forget that 75% of public schools no longer have PE as a mandatory class.)
The solution – we must entice, motivate, and if need be push our kids to move more. But let’s face it, if we have to push them or demand they exercise, they’ll resist and/or hate it. So we have to make it fun. Now I know from all my clients (teens to adults) that you might have to drag them along initially, but once they see true results 90% of them get inspired and motivated to continue so they can see even more results (i.e., toned thighs or bigger biceps).
There are a myriad of exercise options that you can choose from and even rotate through to keep movement fun and challenging. Obviously there are the usual options that are great for calorie burn and muscle tone but cost for equipment and/or classes/lessons (soccer, gymnastics, etc). But here are a few examples of less common ways to get the kids moving, that don’t cost as much or require as large a time commitment:
- Boxing (just gloves and pads are required)
- Bike Riding (street or trails)
- Resistance Training (Age 16+)
- Homemade obstacle courses
- Skateboarding / skating
- Playing Xbox Kinnect or Wii
- Walking (with or without the dog)
The key is 30-60 minutes five times a week. For those reluctant children, if you join them in the activity they’re more likely to engage. Give them some choices, let it be their pick. As already stated you might have to make the designated exercise time “mandatory” initially, but with consistency comes results and with results comes enthusiasm and even addiction. (Don’t let that word scare you, fitness addiction doesn’t have to mean obsession, it’s more that the individual becomes self-motivated to continue because they just don’t feel as good without exercise.)
Keep in mind that children under age 16 should avoid resistance training (weight lifting) to any great extent as their muscles are still forming and risk of injury is higher. However, body-weight exercises are fine as long as kept to a minimum (i.e., pull ups, push ups, crunches, burpees, etc.)
For especially overweight children, any new exercise regiment needs to start slow, and have easy to reach goals so they do not get discouraged by their lack of endurance or strength. But it is essential that you push those goals forward each day. Example: if they can only handle a five minute walk or 10 jumping jacks, the next time its six minutes or 15 jumping jacks.)
Make it fun, make it consistent, make it a family affair when possible, and make it all about health and never about scale weight! Add in healthier nutrition (include them in shopping and cooking as well) and before you know it, the whole family will be fit and healthy.
Okay, so you’ve finally gotten the exercise bug and are working out on a regular weekly basis. You’ve embraced that it’s not all about cardio (resistance training is your friend) and you are joyously seeing results! Then the true “gym-rat” addiction takes hold. You dig deeper, start lifting heavier and more often, and spend more time in general obsessing about your workouts.
But suddenly you find you are no longer losing weight, or growing muscle (whichever your goal may be). You’ve plateaud and you can’t figure out why. You change your routine trying in vein to achieve new results. You increase your cardio, throw in more more stressful combination core/lifting moves, and then you add another day and worse yet, maybe even cut back on calories! Soon you’re training six, maybe even seven times a week. Still your results are small, your body is exhausted, you no longer sleep well or you’re sleepy all the time.
Now you’ve overtrained! It’s true, you can work out too much. The body needs time to recover. I have seen it many times, clients who understand not to work the same body part two days in a row (so the muscles have time to heal and grow), but they seem to ignore that the body as a whole needs time off. They fully understand the need for protein and healthy carbs to help the muscles replenish and thereby burn fat, but they get so preoccupied with scale results that they taper back on food. Facing a wall to their success, they often suffer discouragement and therefore go to the other extreme and slack off on their workouts and nutrition.
Any of this sound familiar to you? If it does, here’s the key to stopping this yo-yo cycle of over training, followed by under training. REST! It’s that simple. If you work out more than one-hour five times a week, you MUST rest (i.e., NO exercise) for the remaining two days. These do not have to be consecutive, but at least every three to four days there is a day of rest.
Sleep is also an essential factor to your goals. A minimum of seven hours is needed per night to help your muscles and organs recover from the onslaught of constant weight lifting and barrage of non-stop food intake that goes with this kind of training.
As for stress, everyone should know by now that stress is a huge factor in weight gain and there’s another reason for the two days off. Life is all about moderation. During those two days you can spend time playing with the kids, or playing as a big kid does and enjoy life!
With proper rest and sleep, a consistent level of nutritionally healthy calories, and time spent decompressing – you will not overtrain, and you WILL continue to see results.
Speaking of kids, this is even more important advice for children. I’ve seen many parents or coaches pushing children involved in sports to train or practice every day. Their bodies need even more rest than an adult body, and their emotions need it too. Driven too hard to train for a sport, they’ll likely lose their passion for it, and/or their school work will suffer due to their body’s exhaustion.