Healthy Kids for Life. That sounds like a wonderful future for my children. My kids haven’t lived long enough for us to know if they will always be healthy, eat well, and remain physically active, but I do know that I want to do what I can here and now to see that happen. Dr. Charles Kuntzleman, author of Healthy Kids for Life, claims that in order to raise healthy children, we need to do more than just send our kids to gym class and call it good. He outlines a specific program that he writes will help us as parents become the coaches of our children’s healthy lives. I feel like I need a whistle…
What is the Healthy-for-Life Checkup?
According to Kuntzleman, we need to first assess our children’s health by conducting a health-related physical fitness test. The test should include:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscle fitness
- Body composition
Kuntzleman wants us to complete a step-by-step regimented test (we could even have a whistle and a stopwatch!) to determine our kids’ physical fitness. His book includes all of the tables we need for measuring our children’s scores, and we have to participate as well. Some of the activities to be measured include:
- Running one mile
- Walking one mile
- Running one-half mile
- Push ups
- Sit-and-Reach (Are you having flashbacks of high school? I know I am!)
Calculating Body Fat for Your Kids
You tally your results and get an accurate picture of where everyone in the family is, and where everyone in the family needs to be. Then it is on to the dreaded body-fat checkup (insert more high school shudders). A skin-fold caliper calculates the amount of body fat rating – and Kuntzleman even gives directions for making your own caliper out of household supplies. My family might be in the minority as we actually have a caliper, purchased after my health conscious husband got a body fat reading at the doctor’s office he didn’t like just by taking his height and weight and calculating it from there. Those calculations don’t account for things like my husband’s ginormously muscle infused biceps. Actually measuring your child’s body fat ratio shouldn’t be an uncomfortable thing to do, but in reality, kids just might not want Mom or Dad making these assessments. Leave this one up to the pediatrician if you think it stresses your child (just make sure the office has an actual skin-fold caliper).
Once you’ve blown your whistle and made it through the physical fitness testing, it is time for an eating assessment. There are quiz questions (still feeling like high school) that have you and your family rate your eating habits, and based on your scores, gives recommendations for improvement.
Thresholds and Goals
One of my favorite parts of Kuntzleman’s strategy is his description of thresholds – they allow failure without causing you to turn away from your overall goal. A threshold is the point you set that reminds you to get back on track, instead of dumping you off the road entirely. It helps you to develop a plan to reach your goal. For example:
The overall family goal is to walk the dog together 3 nights each week. The threshold you decide that means you’re on the wrong track is when you get to Saturday and you’ve only walked the dog once together. Now you take corrective action and make your goal more specific, such as walk the dog on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and until you keep that goal for 2 weeks, there is no television on those days.
Kuntzleman also does a great job describing goal setting for the family, and includes sample goal charts you can duplicate and implement into your family. Goal setting for families is not just for physical health, but emotional and even spiritual health as well. Through it all Kuntzleman reminds us to keep it playful and fun with our kids, even though your job is as coach. The remainder of the book is filled with specific activities you can try with your family for healthy living, including
- Exercise program ideas that encompass all of the different aspects of physical education,
- Meal plans for healthy eating,
- And ideas for how parents can increase community and school awareness of health issues for kids.
Why You Can Skip This Book
(or at least portions of it)
This book gives medically backed ideas for raising healthy kids, and is a strong advocating piece for community awareness. However, it takes the passion for health and turns it into one more thing for which we need to test our kids. It breaks down their health into test scores and numbers, and can trap parents into relying on calculations on the page. The truth is that all kids are different, and the tables in the book don’t really account for that. I’m also not a fan of parents relying on a book to tell them if their kids are healthy or not. Yesterday my son attended football practice for 6 hours, rode bike, then trained for a 10K. Even though he had a brownie for dessert, I’m OK with that. And I won’t be giving him the physical fitness test. We need to keep room in our parenting for knowing who our kids are, without pulling out the stopwatch and whistle (even though that could be fun…).