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Starting them young

/ 10:04 AM October 09, 2012

Two Saturday afternoons ago, I had the privilege of being part of the Inquirer Read-Along series with elementary-school children Cabancalan I Elementary School and Small Wonders Academic Center at the Banilad Town Center.

I was assigned to read “Filemon Mamon” a children’s book telling the story of a kid who loves to act on stage but couldn’t audition for the parts he love because he is plagued by sickness, lack of energy and obesity brought about by poor nutrition (all-meat, high fat diet, junk-food and sugary diet) and a sedentary lifestyle (he does not play outdoors but watches TV and plays video games all the time).

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In the story, Filemon goes through a transformation after he is typecast as a bad guy playing the role of a Spanish friar in a stage play about Andres Bonifacio because of his body type. The turning point of the story happens when Filemon nearly collapses during rehearsals because of heart palpitations and lethargy because he is not fit.

When it was time to ask the kids of Cabancalan I Elementary School and Small Wonders Academic Center what the moral of the story was, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the following reply: “We should eat more fruits and vegetable!”, said one. “We should avoid softdrinks and junk-food because it causes diabetes and UTI,” piped in another. I was also happy to note that despite being part of the video-games and social network generation, the kids knew all about the importance of exercise by actually going outdoors to play actual games and sports like “Jumping jacks!” said one. “Dancing!” said another. “Playing hide and seek!” volunteered one. “Running and biking!” piped in another.

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At the end of the read-along session, the kids were asked to write their own story to reflect how the story and lessons of “Filemon Mamon” resonated with them. The kids came up with the story of  “The Healthy Boy” who wakes up early to go to school, eats fruits and vegetables, does his assignment in the afternoon and plays outdoor games instead of watching television.

With answers like that, there’s hope that this new generation of kids would reverse the global trend of deaths caused by lifestyle diseases.

The Article Family Planning: Introduce kids to running for a lifetime of healthy living by Jeff Galloway and Renee Vernon which appeared in the September 2011 issue of Runner’s World, teaches us that it’s never too early to get children excited about exercise – running in particular.  The article offers these suggestions on how to safely get children of all ages excited about running—for life.

AGES 6 AND UNDER

HOW FAR? Not very. At this age, playing chase or racing Dad to the mailbox is a great way to introduce kids to running.

RUN/WALK RATIO: Run segments should be no longer than 10 to 20 seconds. Walk one to two minutes between each.

AGES 7 TO 9

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HOW FAR? Start with a quarter of a mile. Every week, add a minute or two until you both can complete a mile. If your kid is having a blast, keep adding time until you’re up to 3.5 miles—at that point you can talk about run/walking a 5K together.

RUN/WALK RATIO: Jog for 10 seconds and walk for 40 seconds. Each week, increase the run portion by five seconds and decrease the walk portion by five seconds until you’re at a 30/30 ratio.

AGES 10 TO 12

HOW FAR? Begin with a half mile. Each week, run an additional quarter mile. Build up to whatever mileage feels comfortable— most kids this age can run up to a 10K.

RUN/WALK RATIO: Start with one minute running/one minute walking. If that seems too easy, raise it to 2:1—work up to 4:1 if she continues to feel comfortable.

Of course the key is to let children learn to love sports and exercise by making it seem like play.

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TAGS: Children, Inquirer Read-Along
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