Employee & Community Health

5-2-1-0: Raise healthy kids by the numbers

9/29/2016 by Dr. Natalie Gentile

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Making healthy food and activity choices allows children to grow, develop and maintain a healthy weight so they can play, learn and be at their best. But with all the fad diets and media about what we should and shouldn't do when it comes to leading a healthy life, it can be overwhelming and confusing. 

With just four numbers to remember, the 5-2-1-0 program provides parents with a simple guide and tips for their kids. The third number, "1", stands for the recommendation to get at least one hour of physical activity a day. 

The best way to keep your kids active is to lead by example. It's no secret that getting the heart pumping and breaking a sweat are sure-fire ways to boost one's mood, maintain a healthy weight and increase energy for the day. If exercise isn't currently part of your daily routine, it's never to late to start. Making small, gradual changes in your activity level soon will turn into big, lifelong healthy habits for you - and your kids. 

Here are ways to incorporate more movement into the day for you and your family: 

  • Create a healthy competition with the whole family. Track steps with a pedometer with the goal of 10,000 steps per person per day. 
  • Break up the day with several activity "bursts." Physical activity doesn't have to take place all at one time, but can be just as effective in short bursts throughout the day. 
  • Take the stairs at school or work; park the car far away from the door to the grocery store, movie theater or mall. 
  • Pick a form of exercise that you and your kids enjoy. Some fun ideas include: jumping rope; playing a team sport; walking the family pet; making snow angels; putting the tunes on and dancing; going for a nature hike; playing a pick-up game of basketball, hockey, soccer or kickball; training together for a family walk-run event; swimming at a club or community pool or sledding. 

Dr. Natalie Gentile is a third-year Family Medicine resident in Employee and Community Health (ECH). She is also a certified Power Vinyasa yoga instructor and group fitness instructor. Her primary research interests include childhood obesity and physician/resident wellness.