As we all set our New Year’s resolutions and decide on our goals for the year, getting your family active should be at the top of the list! Healthy habits begin at a young age, so instituting healthy lifestyle changes now will set your children up for a lifetime of health and happiness.Now, with the increased emphasis on long-term healthy weight management, it’s even more important to find ways to get kids moving and keep them active for a lifetime. The proven benefits of regular physical activity, combined with a nationwide interest in interactive technology, has sparked the development of many devices capable of tracking daily physical activity and the amount of energy used during an activity (caloric expenditure). Many of these physical activity monitors give users immediate feedback on their daily progress with eye-catching graphics and motivational information. All options provide a fun way to involve everyone in the family by setting family goals that can be easily tracked.Track your family’s steps with one of these fun tools:
- Pedometers track physical activity by recording the number of steps taken by the wearer. Current physical activity recommendations suggest that children should accumulate approximately 12,000 steps each day and adults a minimum of 10,000 steps each day. Some pedometers are capable of providing general estimates of caloric expenditure and storing data for several weeks, while others provide only daily step counts. Both types of pedometers offer feedback without uploading to a computer and are considered very user friendly. Costs for pedometers generally start around $13.
- Accelerometers track the number of steps taken by the wearer as well, but are also capable of providing additional information related to intensity, or how hard the person is working. These devices may be better suited to individuals who engage in multiple types of physical activity. A number of accelerometers offer limited immediate feedback on the device itself, but often these devices record and store data that can be uploaded to a computer or phone for a full evaluation of an individual’s daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly physical activity. Prices for accelerometers range from $20 for a sensor that tracks daily activity to $100-150 for a version that tracks more data and wirelessly syncs to a computer or phone.
Parents aiming to encourage healthy physical activity habits in their children may want to consider a pedometer or accelerometer. These physical activity monitors can provide that extra bit of motivation that may be needed to take those first steps toward being more physically fit.To get started, have your child wear the monitor for a week to determine his or her average number of daily steps and use this number to set a daily step goal for the following week. A realistic goal for most individuals is to increase the average number of daily steps each week by 500 steps per day until reaching the desired 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day (10,000 steps equals approximately 5 miles). Keep in mind that children and adults are encouraged to participate in 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week and this exercise should be part of – not replaced by – daily step count goals.Starting today, encourage your family to take the first of many steps toward becoming more physically fit. Here are some easy ways to add more steps to your family’s daily routine:
- Take a walk with friends or with your dog.
- Park the car farther away from building entrances.
- Take the stairs.
- Walk to a park to play.
- Take a family walk after dinner.
If you are concerned about your child’s weight or lack of fitness, contact Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s Health Lifestyles Center for a comprehensive assessment. The Center’s multi-disciplinary team of dietitians, psychologists, physicians and exercise specialists works together to create and individualized treatment plan for each patient including nutrition therapy, counseling and exercise. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (804) 628-7337.It’s a new year, which means we have a new opportunity to make getting active a priority in our families. Setting family goals is a great way to support each other on the road to fitness, and the healthy competition doesn’t hurt. This year, let’s get moving and take steps toward a healthier life!