Three things kids can do to stay healthy

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By Fred Bowen
Thursday, May 20, 2010

First lady Michelle Obama issued an important report for kids last week. She thinks too many kids in America weigh too much, and she wants to do something about it.

The first lady is right. Almost one in every three kids -- 31.7 percent -- from the ages 2 to 19 is overweight or obese (that means really heavy). That's more than three times as high as in the 1970s, when lots of your moms and dads were growing up.

Childhood obesity is an important subject because heavy kids are more likely to grow up to be heavy adults. People who are heavy are more likely to get certain illnesses and may die younger. The report, by the Childhood Obesity Task Force, makes 70 recommendations for how governments and businesses, such as restaurants, can help kids eat better and live healthier, more active lives.

Kids will like some of the recommendations. The report suggests that elementary school kids have more recess. More recess? All right!

The report also suggests longer school days -- to make sure that while kids are getting more recess, they are not missing out on educational time. Longer school days? Yikes!

But I wish the report included suggestions for what kids can do to keep healthy and avoid getting too heavy. So I'll give kids (and their parents) three simple ideas.

Limit soda and energy drinks. Kids are drinking four times the soda that kids did 20 years ago. More kids are drinking so-called energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine and sugar. Sodas and energy drinks are okay once in a while, but not with every meal. Kids should drink more water and milk.

Limit TV, video games and other screen time. Studies show that the average kid spends 45 hours a week -- that's more than six hours a day -- with media such as TV, movies, the Internet and video games. Kids who do a lot of screen time are more likely to be heavy. That makes sense, because when you're playing most video games or watching TV, you aren't moving around very much.

Play sports. Mrs. Obama's program is called "Let's Move." I think the best way to get moving is to play sports. So join the swim team. Shoot some hoops. Throw a Frisbee around. Play catch. Take up golf or tennis.

Don't worry if you're not an all-star. Most kids aren't. The important thing is that sports and games are a fun way to stay healthy.

If you don't believe me, just ask Mrs. Obama.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is the author of 14 books for kids.

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