Our children “are sponges,” says Bob Harper, trainer on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” in that they absorb the behaviors they witness in their parents. Make sure you’re sending out the right signals when it comes to your child’s health with these tips from Harper, which he provided at Saturday's U.S. Open.
Set the example: “You can’t just tell your kids to go out and play when you’ve come home from a long day [and sit in front of the TV]. I get it: We are all busy, but if you have children you have a responsibility to those children and their future. I think that only way that real change can happen is when parents get involved,” he says.
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Encourage play: “My mission is to get [kids] playing whatever sport they want to be playing,” he says. “The last thing I would want to see is a child in a gym on a treadmill or something like that. … If you’re the active parent and you’ve found something that really works for you, it might not work for your children. Find something that they like to do — that is going to get them active and that’s what will keep them going and want to do it more.”
Don’t keep score: “I don't really like to introduce the competitive element in any kind of sport activity with kids in the beginning,” he says. Instead, make the games just about fun. “I think it sets a better tone in the beginning of that camaraderie, that love of whatever sport it is. Hopefully it's going to ignite something in them. Bring in the competition later.”
Don’t rely on fast food: “You have to get more involved with what our kids are eating so they're not so enticed by that fast food nation that does have billions of dollars to spend in markets to attract our kids: Come to our restaurants and get these toys and play on these playgrounds while still eating this crap for food. I understand how convenient it is. But realize, ‘Are you going to pay now or later, with health care costs?’”
Don’t throw them too much at once: “Start off really slowly and small,” Harper says about getting kids onto new healthy habits. “You don’t want to make a lot of changes when it comes to your children because they can only retain so much.”
Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithAtMetro