By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog
Between 16 and 32 percent of American children are considered clinically obese – that is, they weigh at least 10% more than their peers of the same age and height. And while some obesity is genetic or metabolic (a child with an obese parent has a 50% chance of becoming obese for life; a child with two obese parents has an 80% chance), heredity does not automatically “condemn” a child to a lifetime of obesity; learning healthy eating habits and engaging in enjoyable physical activities can counteract hereditary and metabolic tendencies.
What causes childhood obesity?
Learning healthy eating habits is the first key to a lifetime of physical wellbeing. According to the Clinton Foundation, the average teenager eats fat-and-calorie-laden fast food at least twice a week, while only three of ten high school seniors report eating green vegetables nearly every day or more often.
The second key to a healthy life is frequent aerobic exercise. But because most elementary schools don’t offer daily physical education classes and less than a quarter of high school students take daily physical education classes, it remains each family’s responsibility to encourage and foster fun, engaging physical activity on a daily basis. By converting at least half of a child’s sedentary time (watching TV, playing video games, working on a PC) into daily, fun physical activities, the obesity epidemic can be greatly reduced.
How martial arts can help
One of the strategies experts recommend for reducing childhood obesity (in addition to serving sensible, healthy meals) is to increase daily physical activity. Taking martial arts classes is a great way to do this because with martial arts, the activities don’t feel like chores or laborious exercises. They’re all fun!
As children learn new martial arts skills – how to focus, how to think and act responsibly, how to think like, and evolve into, a life-long champion – they develop an awareness of themselves and others that fosters respect and a sense of independent accomplishment that is hard to match in any other way. With the martial arts belt system (students can test to achieve a new belt approximately every 3 months) students remain motivated, encouraged, and positive because they’re always moving forward in measurable and emotionally satisfying ways.
At Urban Martial Arts, our focus is on every child’s emotional and physical wellbeing. The methods we use and the information we provide (including healthy, well-balanced meal plans) help establish routines and habits that foster wellness and accomplishment.
For parents there is very little more satisfying than watching their beaming martial arts student achieve physical dexterity and a passion for daily activity that’s certain to promote a future bright with promise.
Why is fighting childhood obesity so important?
Increasing numbers of youngsters are developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, trouble with bones and joints, sleep disorders, and other weight-related issues that were formerly seen only in adults. Should this trend continue, our own children may become the first generation of Americans to have shorter life spans than their parents!
Obesity is also detrimental to the human spirit. Overweight and obese children often suffer from bullying and teasing by similar-age classmates, causing many to develop low self-esteem and depression.
At Urban Martial Arts, children learn skills and lessons that benefit them for the rest of their lives. By encouraging discipline of mind and body, martial arts go a long way toward providing children with esteem for their own bodies, respect for others, and a passion for achieving excellence in all they choose to pursue.
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