It's clear that we have a childhood obesity problem in the United States, where an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of children under age 19 are overweight. That number is projected to climb. Junk foods, a sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and new technology are a few of the reasons given for these startling statistics. What we aren't hearing is a consistent message on how to prevent this epidemic.
As we advocate that a healthy diet and exercise must be part of long-term lifestyle modification, we sometimes forget that with children, this is easier said than done. Good nutrition in children is always a struggle. Children experience food jags and their food choices are often influenced by their peers. The hectic schedule of most busy families lends itself to lots of eating on the run. Fitting in exercise is an even greater challenge.
Technology has become our children's greatest sedentary distraction. However, there is a new, enticing video game that may help your children get motivated and moving: Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). It's not your typical video game. Played on a video gaming system, DDR requires a special dance pad and games. The player follows arrows on the pad with his or her feet while keeping pace with the music, becoming faster as the player's skill level improves. When I researched this equipment I discovered that some games can track the number of calories burned and relate the DDR activity level to the amount of time and calories spent doing common exercises. Some school systems are using the technology in their physical education classes because it's an easy way to engage children in a physical workout.
I can attest to the addictive nature of the game after observing my 5- and 7-year-old nephews play it repeatedly during a Memorial Day holiday last year. The game isn't catching on just with kids, either. Adults are playing, too. I have more than one colleague who admits to using this child's toy for daily workouts!