New Year, New Family: Get Kids Moving

Image via Flickr/USAGHumphries
Image via Flickr/USAGHumphries

When you think about the start of this upcoming year, it is likely that you've given some thought to your personal well-being and health. Like many, you probably set goals for your trimming finances, perhaps organizing your cluttered home and weight-loss. But, have you considered that you may need to factor your kids into those new year goals?

Here are some startling statistics for you to ponder in regards to kids and childhood obesity, that Dr. Shelley Armstrong of Walden University shared with us:

  • Childhood obesity, tops the charts as one of the primary health concerns for parents.
  • In the past three decades, childhood obesity has tripled. 
  • Obese kids are seeing chronic health issues that would typically be seen only in adulthood like: high-blood pressure, asthma, Type 2 Diabetes, sleep and hormonal disorders.
  • Socially and emotionally, overweight kids are more likely to be teased and bullied. Often too embarrassed to inform their parents.  Lower self-esteem and have an increased risk for depression and suicide.
  • Statistically, fit-kids score twice as well on academic tests as their unfit peers. 
  • In the long term more than 80% adolescents remain obese as adults which leave them at risk for premature death. 

These statistics are sobering and really speak to the need for all of us to be mindful of keeping our children active and to model living a healthy lifestyle so we can give our children the best chance at a long life. With kids (and parents) more sedentary than ever due to the more technology focused world, incorporating an active lifestyle is key to avoiding the above health pitfalls. 

So we asked Dr. Armstrong, to offer us some advice with the above information in mind. We asked her how we can approach this conversation of healthy eating and exercise with our young children without the negative “diet” connotation?

She shared simply that, parents are role models. Make physical and healthy eating their “norm” rather than something abnormal in their day-to-day. Involve everyone in the family in your fitness endeavors like training and completing a family 5K. Don't make exercise something that is working towards a goal of “losing weight” – make it a regular part of what's fun as an activity you do together as a family. 

Entering the New Year, we asked Dr. Armstrong to give us her advice for setting a goal for a healthier year for our families. 

“I encourage people to go into the new year with their eyes wide open, don't be in denial, or resistant to criticism about your health. Become knowledgeable about your starting point. Ask your family doctor to write down your family's numbers such as your body weight, your body mass index, your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels. Also, about how much your family has spent in medical costs. An obese person spends about $3,000 more every year than a non-obese person medically related…so if weight loss and financial savings are part of your new years resolutions, good health is the best investment we can make.” 


As you enter the new year, consider the tips below for starting a family fitness plan and how to give yourself a better chance at success. 

Put together a Family Fitness Plan:

  • Look at your starting point.
  • Identify fun ways the family can be active on a daily basis.
  • Track gradual progress and celebrate small victories as a family.
  • Be accountable by working together. 

Tips for Success:

  1. Be realistic, it's going to take at least three weeks to make it a habit and make it part of your family routine.
  2. Shelley shares that the leading barriers for an active lifestyle include: lack of time, lack of confidence and self motivation. Shelley recommends using the SMART method to make goals reachable. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. For example, you might set the goal for your family to run 1-mile in 10% less time in April than on January 1st. Or, we will all walk 10,000 steps everyday as tracked by our pedometer. 
  3. Schedule it on your calendar just like any other appointment. For example, set bike ride appointments each week for you and your family. 
  4. Limit sedentary time. 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.

For more ideas on how to get your kids active in your community, take a listen to Shelley's interview below:

Get Kids Moving Interview


More resources:


Shelley Armstrong, Ph.D.

Dr. Shelley Armstrong specializes in exercise and fitness, college students’ health and well-being, and cancer prevention and control.

Dr. Armstrong joined Walden’s faculty in 2010 and is a core faculty member in the B.S. in Health Studies program. Prior to joining Walden, she spent nearly a decade at Centenary College of Louisiana, where she has served as a lecturer, assistant professor, chair of the Department of Health and Exercise Science, and senior woman administrator in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. As a Certified Health Education Specialist and a certified National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coach, Dr. Armstrong directs a number of children’s fitness programs in the Shreveport, La., community and is head coach of the men’s and women’s cross-country teams at Centenary College. Since 2004, she has held a variety of positions with the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (LAHPERD), which recognized her work through its Young Professional Leadership Award in 2010. Dr. Armstrong is currently a co-principal investigator on a grant to determine if social media improves student retention and persistence in online undergraduate health science programs. Her article, “An evaluation of a college exercise leader program: Using exercise science students as advocates for behavior modification,” was accepted for publication in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health.



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New Year, New Family: Get Kids Moving

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