SPRINGFIELD The 2012 Summer Olympics are taking place in London. And although most people won't be able to watch the events in person, they can still experience the thrill of victory in their own backyards. The American Heart Association hopes parents will use the Games as a jumping point for getting kids active.
"This is a great time to get kids interested and involved in sports and athletic activities, American Heart Director Mary Ann Burns said. "Olympic athletes can inspire children to compete but to also simply participate in sports. And that could help them reach their recommended 60 minutes of play per day for heart health."
Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. Even our nation's infants and toddlers are affected. Nearly 14 percent of preschool children ages 2 to 5 were overweight in 2004, up from 10 percent in 2000. Overweight kids have a 70 to 80 percent chance of staying overweight their entire lives. Obese and overweight adults now outnumber those at a healthy weight; nearly seven in 10 U.S. adults are overweight or obese.
With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking. Obese children as young as age 3 show indicators for developing heart disease later in life. The American Heart Association recommends making simple lifestyle changes, like eating healthier and exercising 60 minutes per day, to help improve children's health.
The Olympics can inspire kids to participate in everyday activities like riding bikes, playing basketball, volleyball, swimming, running or walking.
"Parents don't need to buy expensive equipment to host a backyard kiddie Olympics pool party or hula hoop competition. Kids can create their own pentathlons or obstacle courses in the yard and invite neighborhood kids to participate. They can create their own medals and have a heart-healthy awards celebration. Just be creative, have fun and the exercise part takes care of itself," Burns said.
For more tips on how to make the most of kids play, visit www.heart.org/healthierkids