RECENTLY, MANY parents have been writing to me with concerns about their children's health and fitness. Last week's column offered simple nutrition tips to keep tots to teens in good health. Parents also need to make daily exercise a top priority for themselves as well as their children.
While I agree that it's tough juggling career, family and social obligations, not exercising is simply no longer an option. With obesity and its attendant health issues skyrocketing, the alarm has sounded - and we must act. Not only are our lives at stake, but also the lives of our children.
Parents, put down the remote, get off the couch and get moving! To combat the childhood obesity epidemic, we must first and foremost model the right behavior.
That's right, mom and dad: You are your child's No. 1 role model. It's high time all parents became advocates as well as active participants in their children's health. You know the best way to lead is by example.
Parents need to exercise for their own well-being and their children's. Want your children to eat healthy and value their health and fitness? Then you must live that lifestyle, too.
Don't you want the stamina to keep up with your kids? Don't you want to live to see your grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Surely you want to do everything you can to prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and the laundry list of other diseases that are becoming common among overweight American kids.
We cannot abdicate our parental responsibility to the government, corporations or celebrities.
Though we are not alone, parents are the primary model and - as it should be - shoulder the majority of responsibility for our children's well-being.
I've come up with a few simple solutions to help you prioritize fitness in your busy family life. Regardless of your children's ages, exercise can fit into your family's schedule.
Healthy expectant mothers should exercise throughout their pregnancies. Only one in six pregnant women exercise at recommended levels, according to a study conducted by the St. Louis University School of Public Health.
Many women fear that exercise during pregnancy will harm their babies. But not exercising is the real problem.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women who are free of medical or obstetric complications exercise moderately for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.
Just be sure to check with your physician before you begin.
Once your baby is born, there are a ton of fun exercises you can do.
You can hold your infant in your arms while you do toning exercises such as squats or lunges. "Baby push-ups" can be performed with your infant lying on a blanket on the floor facing you as you do the push-up. Go for a stroll with your baby in tow. Do some stroller striding. More ambitions? Get yourself a jogging stroller.
Babies these days spend long periods confined to play pens, strollers and car seats, which could cause delays in motor-skills development, crawling, rolling over and walking.
The bottom line? Infants need exercise time, too.
Be sure to give your baby some daily tummy time - about 15 minutes a day.
This requires your close supervision. Lay your baby face down on a firm surface and watch as your little one tries to lift her head up and turn it from side to side.
Eventually, she will learn how to push up and then crawl.
Toddlers love to dance, and they're always delighted to be your dance partner. Put on some music every day, and dance, baby, dance!
Toddlers also enjoy running. Take them to a safe outdoor environment like a park or playground where they can run to their hearts' content.
You'll get a workout, too, trying to keep up.
There are so many activities you can do with 5- to 10-year-olds - ride bikes, rollerblade, play catch or softball, do calisthenics or swim at your local pool.
At this stage, the possibilities are endless.
Do formal gym workouts together or play sports like basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, softball, tennis or golf. Dance, walk, hike or run together.
Once you get the ball rolling, you and your kids will be happy that you did.
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). E-mail her at