Staying Fit For Life
Staying Fit For Life
John Spencer Ellis (Author, TV Show Host, Trainer and CEO, National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) gives expert video advice on: How can exercise benefit the elderly?; How can I help prevent childhood obesity?; Should my child take medication to help fight their obesity? and more...
How can exercise benefit the elderly?
It's interesting for seniors because all the studies show that the elderly actually benefit as much from the social interaction from being around their friends in the health club environment, or the YMCA, or whatever it is--as they do from the physical activity itself. There's a reason why we have more centenarians (people who live to be at least 100 years old) in other countries compared to the U.S. It's because the elderly are valued more as seniors and they have more social interaction and importance. And it's that social interaction and importance as much as physical activity which increases the longevity of the seniors. And that alone is reason enough for seniors to get physically fit and get active and get out there and be socially active with the other elderly people who enjoy staying fit into their later years.
How serious is the problem of childhood obesity in the United states?
Childhood obesity in the U.S. is epidemic. According to the Get America Fit Foundation, 16% of kids up to the age of 16 are obese. That's nine million kids in the U.S. are obese. We have to do something about it. There are many contributing factors; it is too many video games that don't require physical activity, it is convenience foods, it is parental influence. Couch potatoes breed tater tots. We have to set examples for our kids; they listen. The parents need to realize how imperative it is. If your child is overweight, it is very likely that they will be overweight as an adult, and it is also very likely that they can get or will get diabetes either as a child or as an adult.
Is fruit juice a better option for my kids than soda?
Parents want to know if they should exchange soda for fruit juice. In theory you would think "Wow that's a good idea!" but sugar is sugar. They say "Well it's natural. Orange juice is natural." and my answer to that is, so is nicotine, heroin and even arsenic. They're all natural; they'll just kill you faster. If you have your child have the whole fruit rather than the fruit juice, the fibre slows the digestion of the sugar and your body can accommodate it, produce enough insulin to get that sugar into the cells, and then you don't start that vicious cycle that leads to obesity. So, in general terms, is juice better than a soft drink? Yes, because it has some nutrients. However as far as it being better or worse for diabetes and obesity? No, it's not any better because sugar is sugar and it still gets the system just as fast.
How many sugary snacks should my child have in a week?
As a parent you may be wondering how often you should allow you child to have some sort of sugary snack, or treat. To be realistic, there are going to be times when the kid is going to ask for that and that it would be acceptable on a limited basis. What happens is oftentimes the parents associate it with a given behaviour or a pattern. Then, as adults, whenever we think we're in distress, or we want to comfort ourselves, or we're rewarding ourselves for good behaviour, we associate it with eating something that we know isn't necessarily good for us but may taste sweet. So that's really where the challenge lies; we're creating a behavioural pattern which magnifies over time and becomes habitual, and then our appetite grows as well so we end up eating more of that same thing to get that same desired effect. However, in general terms, once a week, if the kid wants a particular treat, only after they eat an appropriately balanced meal would I say it's okay. Equally, just from a physiological perspective, if they've been incredibly active outdoors for a long duration they can have something that's higher in sugar directly following that activity to bring their blood sugar back up, but then within about 10 minutes they need to eat something balanced to maintain the appropriate homeostasis and blood sugar levels following that snack. That's what's important.
Are dancing video games good for my child?
Video games that require dance movements or just physical activity are great for the kids, because it gets them off the couch. They actually have to expend energy and move their body, and they actually become a part of the game. It's not virtual reality; it is reality. They have to participate to make their characters move, jump, fly, kick, or shoot, whatever it is. I think that any sort of game, a video game or any technology, whether it's online or not, that requires a kid's physical interaction as well as their mental acuity and hand-eye or foot-eye coordination is fantastic, and I hope more video games go in that direction because we need it.
Should my child take medication to help fight their obesity?
Only your doctor can decide if your child should take medication for obesity. It is my opinion as a health and fitness educator and not a medical doctor, that children do not need medication. I think through proper lifestyle enhancement, eating organic foods, managing stress, kids have stress too, getting involved in the community, doing all the right things that we know. We know what we need to do. The kids don't need the medication. It's just absolutely not necessary with very, very few exceptions. And here's the thing too. The parents should intervene early enough to where the child isn't so obese that, that may be the only answer is medical and pharmaceutical intervention. If he knows your child is 5 or 10 lbs. overweight, encourage them to be more active. You're not saying you're going on a diet or you need to get on a fitness program. "Let's be active." "Let's enjoy the active lifestyle." "Let's go hiking." "Let's ride a bike." "Let's go swimming." So it's parental intervention early enough to where medicine may not be needed.
What do I do if I think my child is overeating for emotional reasons?
If you feel your child is overeating for emotional reasons you need to talk to them: “Hey little Johnny or Susie, how did your day go?” and find out what they're linking up to the behavior of eating too much or inappropriate foods. So what is fuelling their behavior? Is it that they're happy? Are they sad? Or whatever. People can associate food with pleasure and pain and happiness and joy and excitation and reward and everything. We should associate food with enjoying time with your family and doing something social but it doesn't mean that it means social over indulgence either. And so the most important thing is to find out why they're doing this. And are they linking up their food behavior inappropriately to balance out some emotional flux that they had in their life that day or in the days and weeks preceding as well.
Is it healthy to be thin like a model?
I'm sure there are some models who are very thin and still very healthy. All too often, they use starvation methods, diuretics, laxatives, and all sorts of things to attain that thin look. Most often, they are incredibly unhealthy if they're doing those things. It's certainly nothing that you should attempt yourself.
What should I if my child is experimenting with diets?
If your teenage son or daughter is trying to fit in with his or her peers because they feel that perhaps their physical body is not acceptable to his or her peers, and they're doing things like crash dieting, using laxatives and diuretics, and exercising excessively, first I would have them seek appropriate counselling to find out what's really at the root of it all. After that, they should see a clinical nutritionist or a registered dietician, and a fitness professional. Those three groups of individuals should work together to make sure that they're not contradicting each other, and to make sure that there's a cohesive approach to the exercise, the nutrition and the mental aspect. Then, the parents have to get involved as well. Oftentimes the parents have good intentions. However, the things they're saying about their own body are then transferred to the teen, inappropriately and indirectly, and sometimes unconsciously. The teen adopts those thought processes and feelings, imposes it upon his or herself, and then acts upon it. That's really oftentimes the root of the issues; it's not so much their peers themselves.