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Keep family fitness a priority in your home

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Just in case you’re interested, Saturday is Family Health and Fitness Day.

So what, you might ask. Well consider this: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, today’s kids and teens — ages 8-18 — spend close to four hours a day in front of the television and another two hours on the computer or playing video games. Factor in sleep, school and homework, and that doesn’t leave much time for physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in children aged 6-11 years in the United States has increased from 7 percent to nearly 18 percent in the last 30 years. For adolescents aged 12-19 years, obesity has increased from 5 percent to 18 percent over the same period.

Compounding the problem are the health risks. We’re seeing increased instances of heart problems, diabetes and even high blood pressure in children, not to mention the negative effects television and video games can have in terms of violence and sex.

There’s an old saying that parents are always the first teachers of their children, but you’re probably thinking of the many things working against a healthy lifestyle these days: time, jobs, maintaining a home, and, let’s face it, energy.

But maybe this day dedicated to family health can be a time of reordering our priorities. Here are some suggestions from your neighbors.

Della Wright, Hammond: Several years ago, I was preparing for a charity walk when my two girls, then 8 and 11, asked if they could walk with me. What an “aha” moment that was! There was no reason they shouldn’t be encouraged to participate. Walks have become such a great family experience for us that we actually look for events and now participate in several each year. In between, we walk together to stay in shape and I’ve found it’s become an easy way for us to talk about things that matter.

Mike Pero, Lowell: When my wife and I built our home over 20 years ago, one of the first things I installed was a basketball hoop on the driveway. Our sons and daughter had a ball in their hands as soon as they could walk. There have been times when I just wanted to sink into my chair after work but they’ve kept me honest. We play several times a week through all kinds of weather.

Mary Guzman, Merrillville: Our family loves to celebrate special occasions and our tradition had us doing it with goodly amounts of food. I could see what it was doing to us, especially the little ones. So, one day I decided to add to the tradition. Now when we gather for things like birthdays, we also plan an activity. We’ve played volleyball and baseball, gone for walks on the beach, and even had a bowling tournament. If anything, I hope we’re teaching our children that celebrations don’t have to center only around eating.

Johanna Martin, Schererville: When the bike path opened close to our house, we all got bikes for Christmas that year. We started easy when the kids were smaller but now, weather permitting, we pedal several miles together at least twice a week.



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