UPMC launched Will M Sport to provide resources on healthy eating and lifestyle practices. Will M Sport is a guide, or a "teammate," for children who want to lead their own healthy lifestyle. Will provides instructions for the following practices: eating healthy; visiting the doctor; getting exercise; having good dental hygiene.
For many children, video games and computers have replaced physical activity. In fact, a government study found that the amount of time kids spend being active drops between the ages of 9 and 15. The decline is fastest between the ages of 12 and 15.
“Getting exercise is crucial for lifelong health, and the habit should start in childhood,” says Amanda Budzowski, an exercise physiologist and health coach at UPMC Health Plan. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, according to Ms. Budzowski. It can help them stay at or reach a healthy weight, strengthen their bones, and build their muscles.
“Inactivity sets kids up for all sorts of problems as they get older—from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure to obesity,” Ms. Budzowski says.
UPMC suggests making healthy practices a group effort: Make exercise a priority for your whole family. Ride bikes together on weekends and go for walks after dinner. Sign your child up for an after-school sport, then practice with him or her at home.
Will also encourages good nutrition in addition to being active. Being overweight can affect a child’s health and self-esteem, yet 1 in 5 children in the U.S. falls into this category. Parents of overweight children often impose strict diets or exercise routines, but kids—like adults—tend to rebel.
If a child’s weight concerns parents, UPMC suggests that they talk to the child's pediatrician. The doctor will start by calculating the child’s body mass index, or BMI. If it’s too high, the doctor will help the child and parents to create an action plan. This plan will likely involve changing three key things: your child’s diet, activity level, and sleep.
Healthy eating is also promoted as a family practice. According to UPMC, studies have shown that kids who eat meals with their families have healthier diets and lower obesity rates.
UPMC recognizes the tendency for children to steer towards unhealthy options. So, they advise the following steps for parents: Get your child interested in healthier foods. Let your child help you plan a healthy menu each week. Be sure to include lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Your child might complain, but stand firm.
UPMC maintains a research-supported claim that the more kids see a food, the more likely they are to try it.