Awareness Month Says Get Active

Childhood Obesity News has searched high and low for hints and tips that parents can implement at home without spending a lot of money and, hopefully, without increasing familial stress or dysfunction. Two posts have disparaged electronic screen-related pastimes, but, fortunately, the news is not all bad.

Parents worry about how to phase out video gaming. As with most related endeavors, it really helps to get out ahead of that project. Start off on the right foot, and bring in the kinds of material you hope they will respond to with healthy activity, before they have a chance to become set in their ways.

Here is a quotation from the eminent Dr. David Katz:

In an age of widespread childhood and adolescent obesity, technology is clearly the proverbial double-edged sword. On the one edge, technological innovation and screen time, in particular, is associated with sedentariness and weight gain, But then there is the other edge: Technology can be used to encourage activity.

Speaking of swords, imaginary fencing uses up calories, and so does shadowboxing. There is a whole genre of “exergames” that stoke up movement, and hundreds of dance and exercise programs. Make it a project to collect and collate the most danceable songs from all eras and cultures, and have the occasional dance party. Learn the corniest moves, the “I’m a Little Teapot” dance, the Mexican Hat Dance, and the Macarena. Even the Electric Slide might come in handy some day, if your kids are invited to a traditional wedding reception.

On the downside, this suggestion shows again that not every helpful tip can be carried out by every family, because circumstances differ. You don’t want to set up too much indoor activity if the noise will make life miserable for the nice people who live downstairs. On the other hand, if you have a basement rec room, go nuts! Do hopscotch and rope-jumping.

Imagination helps

Even indoors, some motion is better than none, and there is no need to break the bank in pursuit of activity. All you need for step aerobics are an instruction video and a step. Balloons are cheap, and indoor balloon volleyball is an option. Save empty plastic bottles for bowling pins, and use rolled-up socks as a bowling ball. They work on any kind of floor, and are not disturbingly noisy. The best part is, every time the pins need to be set back up, somebody is burning a few calories.

It really doesn’t have to cost much to stock a few fun items, like a mini-trampoline or a couple of inflatable exercise balls. Check thrift stores, yard sales, and online sources of used stuff. (Look up and see if it operates in your area.)

We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that, for the sake of maintaining normal weight, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Even when an activity only consumes a few calories, if it keeps the person’s hands and/or mouth occupied by something other than eating, it is a beneficial activity.

Dr. Pretlow’s book, Overweight: What Kids Say, contains suggestions for fun activities, and after this was mentioned in a post, reader Cat McClintock wrote,

You listed activities kids can try instead of comfort eating, but you failed to mention my teenage favorite: Playing sad songs on my guitar in my room alone for hours and hours. I laugh about it today, but it did the trick!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “TV in Child’s Bedroom Tied to Weight Gain,”, 03/03/14
Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys on Visualhunt/CC BY

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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