C.J. Wilson, starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers, is all about you getting fitter and healthier.
“It’s important to get kids healthier and cut down on childhood obesity,” he says. He feels so strongly about young people’s health, he founded his own charity to encourage it.
The statistics back up Wilson’s concerns: Americans are overweight and getting more overweight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity in 12- to 19-year-olds rose from 5 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2008. That’s more than tripled.
Obesity can lead to heart disease, bone problems, cancer, diabetes–the list of serious health problems goes on.
Don’t be a statistic. There are some simple things you can start doing now to stay on track or get on the right track to a healthy body and life.
For the most part, the cause of obesity in young people is pretty straightforward: too many calories in and not enough calories out. In other words, youth are not getting enough exercise to burn off the calories (units of energy from food) they’re eating.
When you’re sitting around watching TV, playing videogames or using the computer, you’re not burning many calories. And the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says that Americans your age spend about 25 percent of their waking hours doing these types of things. One third of people by the time they’re age 15 are not getting enough moderate or vigorous activity, and 10 percent are totally inactive.
So what’s a guy to do?
If you’re into sports, great. You’re probably getting enough exercise. Not into sports? That’s OK. All you need to do is get moving.
“Exercise is just movement,” says Cornell McClellan, personal trainer to President Barack Obama and his family. “Exercise doesn’t have to be organized. If you’re just out running and riding your bike, your body responds to it. Variety is best. You don’t want to just be a runner when you can run and bike and swim.”
Most health experts recommend an hour of daily physical activity for people up to age 17.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints quarterback, says: “Why not get out and play for 60 minutes a day? It can be kickball, tennis, soccer, swimming, golf, the list goes on and on. There’s time for computers, games, lots of things. But we need to get out and get the blood pumping.”
“More than anything, focus on what’s fun,” says Wilson, the major-league pitcher. “It can be surfing, riding bikes, playing flag football, Frisbee.”
For more ideas on getting exercise–and the specific kinds you need–see “How to Get Out There” at left.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You probably have heard it: You are what you eat.
“Eating healthy foods in the appropriate amounts … influences everything, including your weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, mood, energy levels, stamina, strength and overall sense of well being,” says nutritionist Karen Donato of the We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition) national program.
The American Heart Association adds that a good diet also helps with your looks–and not just weightwise. It also can improve your skin and hair quality.
To eat the best possible diet and be at your best, here are some helpful tips from the experts:
* Make sure your plate of food has lots of color. The more color, the more fruits and vegetables–and vitamins–you’re getting. Eat things as close as possible to their natural state.
* Need more fruits and veggies? Start by adding one to each meal and blending them into foods you like (maybe add broccoli in your mac and cheese).
* Give new foods a chance: It can take up to five tries to get a taste for them. Try preparing them in different ways, too–cooked carrots taste totally different from raw.
* Cut out as many processed foods as possible. Are there ingredients in the nutrition label that you can’t read? It’s a processed food. Leave it on the shelf.
But let’s get real: You’re probably not going to totally steer clear of sweets and junk food. Even Drew Brees admits to having the occasional Sno-Ball cake treat.
Here’s a tip from McClellan: Eat 90 percent of what your body needs and 10 percent of what’s fun. That means having treats only once in a while and in small amounts.
So be careful. Remember those statistics about obesity? It has been proven that young people who watch the most hours of TV tend to be more overweight. And it’s not just that they’re not getting enough exercise–part of the problem is that people tend to eat junk food while watching TV.
Check out “Make MyPlate Your Plate” below for specific guidelines on how to eat right.
Better self-esteem, more confidence, a sense of achievement.
It’s not just good health that comes from regularly exercising and eating right. Getting fit and staying fit can improve many areas of your life.
“The same determination you use to complete your first mile might be the same determination you use to complete your first year of college,” McClellan explains. “It’s coming from the same place in terms of ‘I can, I can, I can’ instead of ‘I can’t.'”
And don’t let the idea of making these changes to your life overwhelm you. Start small. Set goals you are confident that you can achieve, then build on them.
Ditch the chips and instead have some grapes for a snack. Walk to school instead of getting a ride or driving. At dinner, drink water instead of a soda.
“All of the changes don’t need to happen all at once,” says Donato, the nutritionist. She suggests trying a new one every week so at the end of the month, you’ll have tried at least four new healthier options.
Wilson agrees: “A lot of people get discouraged when they try to do too much too fast. You have to break off little pieces at a time. So if you’re overweight, you have to focus on losing a little at a time and not all at once. From there, it becomes a lifestyle change, and it adds up over time.”
HOW TO GET OUT THERE
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends three kinds of physical activity on a weekly basis:
* Aerobic. Activity that gets you sweating, breathing harder and your heart pumping. It should make up most of your 60 daily minutes and can be of moderate intensity (such as brisk walking, hiking, baseball, skateboarding), but get in vigorous intensity (running, hiking, soccer) at least three days per week.
* Muscle Strengthening. For at least three days per week do activities such as weightlifting, push-ups or gymnastics.
* Bone Strengthening. Do things like jump rope, play basketball play tennis or run at least three days per week.
The American Heart Association says if you’re not used to being active, gradually build up by adding a few minutes every few days. The same applies for intensity level: Slowly build up over time. For example, go from walking to jogging to running.
Dave Gleason of the international Youth Conditioning Association recommends:
* Ages 10 to 13: “Free play, recreational sports, uncoached pick-up games of your favorite sport. Your muscles are beginning to grow faster than your bones” (known as a “growth spurt”), so it’s crucial that you “keep moving and have fun.”
* 14 and older: “Exercise with more of a defined program, such as one to become stronger or be a more efficient runner. Even for this older age group, the emphasis should be on fun.”
MAKE MYPLATE YOUR PLATE
MyPlate shows the dietary guidelines recommended by the U.S. government:
* Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables.
* Half should be lean protein (such as meat) and grains (at least half of those whole grain).