I have a pretty cool life. Everyday I get to run around and play soccer with kids anywhere from 3-5 years old. It’s full of laughs, little bumps, and those “kids say the darndest things” moments. Not a day goes by when I don’t sport a huge smile and big laugh. And its even more fun for the kids – and me – when they are running and active regardless of whether they ever play soccer again after I leave. I don’t worry about who is a “good” soccer player. I worry about who is a happy and healthy kid. To me, its all about giving them a positive experience with exercise and life through the lens of a soccer ball. Having said that, I have heard many comments from parents along the line of, “I just want my child do SOMETHING…anything besides sit in front of (insert electronic device here).”
Let’s face it, lifetime habits start early. And the older we get those habits are harder to break. Fitness and health habits can and should start young. Between video games and families who rarely eat at home anymore, children have a hard time staying fit and healthy. Junk food diets, sedentary lifestyle, and parents who work and are rarely home or involved in their lives have led America’s children down a spiraling trend towards childhood obesity. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%. Scary stuff. Obesity doesn’t simply affect children as they experience their youth, but will carry into lifelong habits and lead to the proliferation of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and other weight related syndromes. The best way to combat childhood obesity is to encourage parents to provide good eating alternatives for their children and to get kids off of the couch and into the park. Soccer, with its ease of play and lack of equipment, is a perfect sport to allow kids to run, jump and keep their bodies more healthy. Kids like to be active. I know this. I see it all the time. When they run, they smile. When they jump, they smile. When they fall down, they sometimes cry, but inevitably get up, start running and smile some more.
There is no question that childhood obesity is on the rise. Children are becoming less active and quite honestly, I believe technology is partly to blame. Well, I should say that technology is the root of the problem, but parents need to do their part to make sure that technology doesn’t overtake their children’s lives.
I see my own children having that pull to sit in front of the television or computer screen. Thankfully this past summer most of my children have been pretty active. They have spent a lot of time walking or biking to and from friend’s houses, to tennis courts, or just playing in the neighborhood. They spent time at the park. It is as much about the social and emotional outlets as it is the exercising. Think about it, they are being active, maintaining friendships, and establishing good habits without even realizing it.
It really does begin at home. Parents are the first example. If they aren’t active and all they eat is junk food, their children will follow suit. If you are a parent, you have no better reason to get started on a healthier path. You are the example to set for your children. Fighting obesity really must begin at home and start young!
Top photo credit: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Shannon Perry is the Soccer Shots Connecticut Director. Shannon is a former collegiate and professional player with 10 years experience working with children of all ages. Soccer Shots is a leader in youth soccer development for young children, and emphasizes both soccer skills and character development. Each Soccer Shots session is age appropriate, and incorporates basic soccer skills, vocabulary (word of the day), imaginative play, and coordination, balance, and agility development.