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    Learn how obesity affects children and how children can exercise to improve health.

    Child obesity and exercise?

    How can exercise be beneficial to children who are overweight or morbidly obese?

    Is obesity the greatest challenge facing American children today?

    the greatest challenge facing American children today is obesity.

    Exercise: Key Factor in Child and Adult Obesity

    With your doctors advice and physical recommendations in hand—start becoming more active today! What does this mean? Obviously, there may be many physical limitations to be considered before beginning an exercise program.

    If you are able to mimic the actions of everyday activities of daily living—this is a great place to start. Some of these 'actions' include standing, sitting, bending, and reaching. If you are not able to stand or sit upright simply start with less ambitious exercises like an overhead reach with your arms. Exercises in an exercise program are organized by ‘set’ and number of ‘repetitions.’ Try to repeat ’sets’ of exercises (while monitoring your heart rate with heart rate monitor) related to sitting, standing, and lifting your arms from a variety of angles or starting positions. For example, try to sit upright in a stable chair, with your back straight and tall, with your legs positioned comfortably in front of you and simply reach your arms overhead. Beginning from a hand-to-shoulder position to a fully outstretched arm overhead position. Repeat this exercise 2 - 3 times for a comfortable amount of repetitions per set, set a goal of 10 - 12 repetitions. Set a goal to begin exercising 2 sessions a day at 20-30 minutes each workout session.

    Sample Exercise Program for People Managing Morbid Obesity

    The following exercise program is not intended to serve as a prescription for exercise for all people managing obesity or other special health concerns. Please always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. The following exercise recommendation may serve as an example of simple exercises that may be considered when planning an exercise program:

    Exercise 1. Seated (or a slightly elevated lying position) Overhead Press

    Begin with your abdominals tightened, sitting tall, and breathing rhythmically (exhale on exertion). With your hands at a start position near your shoulders, elbows positioned comfortably to the sides of your body, begin by ‘pressing’ your hands overhead. The end position occurs as your arms outstretch above you leaving a slight bend in your elbows. You will feel tension in your shoulders, biceps, and triceps muscles in your arms. Some mild soreness is expected--however, you should exercise within your acceptable level of perceived exertion and discomfort.

    Exercise 2. Sitting and Standing from a Stable Chair or Bench

    If you are able, begin from a seated position on a stable bench or chair and stand to a fully erect position. Leave a slight bend in your knees to keep the stress of your bodyweight in your leg muscles. Remember, you weigh more than you should…this means you are ‘using’ a lot of weight for this exercise. Start with one repetition and gauge the level of difficulty forward. Set a goal of repetitions that you can successfully complete without severe discomfort--this may be as little as one or as many as five repetitions.

    Exercise 2. (Alternative) Lower Leg Extension from a Chair or Bench

    Begin by sitting in a stable chair or on a bench, with your knees bent at roughly 90 degrees, feet placed on the floor in front of you, begin by sitting tall, tightening your abdominals, and placing your hands on your non-working leg for support. Start by extending one lower leg out in front of you until your foot is comfortably high off the ground. This is called a lower leg extension exercise. Begin with one ’set’ of one to five ‘repetitions.’

    Exercise 3. Abdominal Strengthening by Voluntary Contraction

    Begin in a lying or seated position, slowly breathe out (exhale) while ‘squeezing’ your abdominal muscles. Be sure to keep your breathing steady, rhythmic, and calm. The pushing or squeezing sensation you will feel is quite normal. If you feel any pain, stop immediately. Set a goal of one set to three sets of this abdominal exercise utilizing between one and five repetitions per set. The idea here is to contract the abdominal muscles with mild exertion--never hold your breath. As you become more comfortable with this and any other exercise you can simply adjust ‘up’ the sets and repetitions to further strengthen your muscles.

    These simple exercises can be modified in many ways to suit your particular needs and/or limitations. While the exercises listed above do not represent a ‘complete’ workout program for people managing obesity--they will kick start you into a better, more active, lifestyle. These exercises can help you strengthen your body enough to evaluate more sophisticated, involved, exercise programs to come. Not only will you be setting new goals--you will be accomplishing better health one step-at-a-time, day-by-day!

    How does exercise help in the treatment of obesity?

    The goal of treatment for obesity is weight loss. Exercise is an essential part of any weight-loss program and should become a permanent part of your lifestyle. The benefits of exercise can include

    Improved and Increased:

    • calorie burning/ weight loss
    • muscle tone
    • metabolic rate
    • circulation
    • heart and lung function
    • self-esteem 
    • ability to concentrate
    • physical appearance

    Decreased and Reduced:

    • stress level 
    • major depression
    • appetite
    • sleepless nights 
    • high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood sugar instability 
    • risk of cancers and heart disease

    If you of your child are obese there are many things you can do to reverse or stop obesity. Simply add physical activity like bike riding, modified sports activities or physical whole body exercise each day for an hour or more. Commit to dietary changes that include developing a diet that is well balanced with whole foods like lean meats, lots of vegetables, and low glycemic fruits, can help you and your child to live a healthier life and enjoy quality of life for many years.

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