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Adults must set a good health example for their kids

If the ‘Health Survey of Adults in Bermuda’ released by Bermuda Health Council last month were to be marked by teachers as a report card, it is likely that the adults would be given a C grade and the teachers would say “you can do a lot better!”.

The report revealed that two out of three residents are now classed as overweight or obese, one in three Islanders have high blood pressure, 11 percent are diabetic and 5 percent have cardiovascular disease.

If action is not taken promptly to turnaround this dire state of our citizens, then not only will adults suffer from poor health, but so will our children. We are viewed as role models for our children and if they copy our current unhealthy behaviour, then the situation will only get worse. As parents, we are faced with a great responsibility and opportunity to improve this picture and positively influence the health of the next generation.

It is widely believed that learning is easier when you are young as knowledge and experience naturally forms part of your personality and lifestyle. If through the process of socialisation children learn to lead active and healthy lifestyles, then they are more likely to continue these behaviours as they grow into adulthood. If these changes in attitude and perception occur on a mass scale, then health improvements are sure to be seen in future health surveys.

Physical activity plays an important role in your well-being and maintaining a healthy quality of life. It has been scientifically proven that people who are physically active live longer, healthier lives.

Active people are more productive, and more likely to avoid illness and injury. Act in the best interests of your children now by getting them up and about and on the right track.

Self-motivation for children, as it is for adults, is key in forming and maintaining healthy habits. So how do you get your children to actually want to pursue healthy lifestyles for themselves? The simple answer is don’t make it difficult.

Being active should be a natural part of your child’s day whether it is at home, at school or at play. Some ideas on how to get them moving include walking to school rather than driving them, having them carry out chores around the home, taking them to the playground or park regularly, and asking them to carry some of the groceries or shopping bags. Aim to work at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise into their daily schedule from the age of five years and up.

Michelle Brock Jackson, executive vice president Group Insurance, the Argus Group, and mother of 16-month-old twins, has some advice to share for getting younger ones active.

She advises: “It’s never too early to introduce your children to activities that will get them moving and energized. I was inspired by a gentleman whom I met at Child Development classes. He gets up at 6am to spend some quality time with his two-year-old son. Together they do calisthenics, stretching out and jumping. I’m now out in the garden with the twins each evening for at least half-an-hour, just running around, chasing butterflies, playing peek-a-boo, or hide and seek. It all helps them to get a taste for being active and having fun at the same time.”

It is really important that you find out what kinds of physical activity your child enjoys from an early age as this will mean they are more likely to keep up the good work on their own.

Do they prefer precision skill based sports like tennis or martial arts or do they like team games such as hockey or soccer? Do they have a natural flair for athletics or dance? Once you see something that has caught their attention, keep them inspired by finding lessons or clubs they can join to sharpen their abilities.

The Government’s Community Education initiative provides some affordable after-school course options across the Island, including ballet, bowling and tennis. The next term will begin in January 2012; visit www.communityed.gov.bm for more details.

Keeping your children busy in the evenings will lessen the time they have available to spend in front of the TV or playing computer games.

Watch out for the community calendar published in the press, on the radio or on local websites such as www.bermuda.com, www.emoo.com and www.nothingtodoinbermuda.com, for activities that you can take part in as a family.

In addition to the annual Argus Walks the Walk 5K event in March and the Crime Stoppers Bermuda 5K Walk and Road Race that Argus sponsors every October, there are an abundance of family-oriented events in Bermuda that you can use as opportunities to get active and spend some quality time together. You could even organise your own events with other families, such as a beach sports day or scavenger hunt, which, at the same time, will build on your child’s social skills.

Getting your children active certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use the Island’s many beaches, national parks and playgrounds for free and gain additional motivation to get moving from the beautiful backdrops and adventures that nature provides.

Whatever you do to get your children busy and active, remember to keep them healthy and safe. You should provide fuel with a healthy snack 30 minutes prior to exercise, which could include fresh fruit, yogurt or a granola bar. Give them a bottle of water or fruit juice to take with them so that they stay hydrated.

Make sure they wear sunblock (SPF 30) during outdoor activities, even when it’s cloudy. Ensure they wear helmets when cycling and provide road safety advice before you let them ride unaccompanied.

Mrs Brock Jackson, with younger children in mind, adds: “When you have little ones running around, it is really important that you keep one step ahead of them. Make sure that staircases are blocked and any potentially dangerous objects are moved outside of their reach.”

Physical activity aids children’s growth and development and makes them strong. Being active also prevents chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Exercise also provides energy and decreases stress, manages weight and improves concentration in the classroom.

Don’t procrastinate. Put this advice into action today!

Gwyneth Rawlins is a customer relations specialist at the Argus Group and has worked for the company since 2000. Ms Rawlins has worked in the insurance industry for over 18 years, both locally and abroad. She is knowledgeable in medical and financial underwriting and has a wealth of experience in customer service and staff training. www.argus.bm

Photo by Akil Simmons Youngsters in the Crime Stoppers road race seen outside the Argus building last month.

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Published November 25, 2011 at 10:12 am (Updated November 25, 2011 at 10:11 am)

Adults must set a good health example for their kids

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