Let’s face it…with today’s busy schedules, spending time together as a family is often a challenge, and it may seem impossible to find time for exercise! But what if we combined these pursuits?
Recent statistics tell us that overall, Oklahomans need to get healthier. In fact, the obesity rate in Oklahoma has grown faster than ANY other state over the past 15 years, and our state is currently ranked seventh in the nation, with an obesity rate of 31.4 percent. In addition, 67 percent of Oklahomans are considered overweight, including 30 percent of our children.
Furthermore, Oklahoma is one of only two states in the nation that does not have a health education requirement for children in public schools, meaning the burden shifts back to the families, where many adults in the state are struggling themselves. Making physical fitness a family affair is a good way to get both adults and children on the road to better health.
Oklahoma is not alone in its struggle, as the tendency toward obesity has risen across the country in recent years. In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! Campaign in 2010, stating “the physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.” According to current statistics, the United States has the highest obesity rate in the world. The First Lady’s campaign focuses on creating a healthy lifestyle within the family and the community—a strategy that has been shown to work in other places.
Kate Waring teaches physical education in the Putnam City school district, and she offers a unique perspective on health and physical fitness. Originally from the United Kingdom, Kate relocated to the U.S. in 2009. She earned a B.A. with joint honors in Sports, Media and Health and Leisure at Trinity and All Saints University of Leeds, U.K. In 2011, she earned her M.Ed. in Secondary Education specializing in Physical Education from the University of Central Oklahoma, and is a first-year teacher. She has worked in the health and leisure industry for the past 16 years in both the public and private sectors, and has served as a fitness instructor, personal trainer and coach.
“Physical education has always been a passion of mine, and dates back to my high school days. “In England, more emphasis is placed on health, wellness and participation. No one is excluded from being involved in the activities offered. This involvement afforded me an understanding of the importance of exercise, health, and personal responsibility. I mean, if you don’t look after your body, where are you going to live?”
Sending a Healthy Message
Kate takes her responsibility seriously, and strives to communicate this message to her students, encouraging them to be healthy. “I want to show my students that it is more about being physically active than working out. I try to get away from the stereotype of working out in a gym, and try to show them different ways they can be physically active while having fun. It’s about creating a healthy image of physical activity and showing them different games and activities they can take home to their families.”
When it comes to getting families involved, Kate stresses the daily recommendation of one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise. “I encourage families to visit their local city’s website and check out the Parks and Recreation section (see below). My local park has playground equipment, walking trails, a rock wall, a stretching/calisthenics area, tennis and volleyball courts, open fields, baseball fields and horseshoes—and the best part is, it’s all absolutely free.”
In fact, there are a number of city-run parks in Oklahoma that offer family-friendly activities. “It’s just a matter of getting online and seeing which one is closest to you! Even really simple things like walking the dog or getting up early and taking a family bike ride will make a difference. It’s all about being active, and if the kids see mom and dad having fun, they are going to want to do it all the more.”
Another great way to get kids excited about exercising is to create a family challenge. Waring explains, “Get everyone a pedometer, then see who walks the most steps in a day, week, or month. Have rewards, make it fun and keep it fresh!”
The End Result
The bottom line? “Physical activity and a healthy, balanced diet are so important for children and their development. There are so many distractions, so much stimulation, and such easy access to fast food, and unfortunately, we’re seeing the results of that with high rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other medical complications. Regular physical activity is necessary to give your mind and body what it needs. It helps with concentration and weight control and elevates mood. I am fearful of what it will take for people to take physical activity and healthy diets seriously. It is estimated that this generation of children will be outlived by their parents, which is scary. You are the only one who can change your destiny! Don’t be another statistic!” says Waring.
Contact Your Local Parks & Recreation Department
Physical activity can and should be a family endeavor. Get moving together today!
- Edmond: www.edmondok.com/parks
- Moore: www.cityofmoore.com/fun
- Mustang: www.cityofmustang.org
- Norman: www.normanfun.com
- Oklahoma City: www.okc.gov/parks
- Yukon: www.cityofyukonok.gov/city-departments/parks-recreation/
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer from Edmond and a Certified Pharmacy Technician at Innovative Pharmacy Solutions.