Fitness for the whole family

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AUDIO

Listen to Australia's favourite personal trainer Michelle Bridges chat with James O'Loghlin on keeping your kids healthy, active and out of the pantry.

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Views expressed in interviews may not be the views of the NSW Department of Education and Communities.

Transcript
 

At a glance

  • Be a role model; your child will take part in physical activity more readily if you do.

  • Plan your child's day to include physical activity – something that suits your life (eg walking to school, playing in the backyard, skipping, joining a sports team).

  • Clean out the pantry – if there isn't any unhealthy food in it, your kids can't eat it.

  • Get your kids to help cook healthy meals and they will be more inclined to eat them.

James O'Loghlin
Welcome to School A to Z. Hello, I'm James O'Loghlin.

How can you motivate kids to get interested and healthy by doing the right amount of physical activity? Michelle Bridges is a personal trainer; you might have seen her on TV on The Biggest Loser. She's the author of two very best selling books – Crunch Time and the Crunch Time Cookbook and she joins us; thanks very much Michelle.

Michelle Bridges
Thank you so much for having me.

James
It is a pleasure. Guidelines suggest kids should do at least an hour of physical activity every day. It's easy to say, but sometimes hard to do. What are some practical suggestions for parents of school-age kids about how they can get kids to do that hour without the kids resenting it? In fact, with the kids loving it.

Michelle
It's not always easy. I know as a child I used to walk to school, for some people that's practical, for others it's not. There was always a lot of sport in my life. So after school there would be recreational sport as well as just playing outdoors. Again in this day and age, it's not always practical for kids to be playing out on the streets. So, I think at the end of the day it's really got to come down to the parents being role models. And the earlier you start the better with a child. I think that the earlier that a child sees that the mum and dad are active and involved either in sport or some sort of recreational activity and the children also then become involved in that, I think it compounds. You know I look back at when I was at school and although there was a lot of sport in my life, I think back to when I was in surf life saving club and a lot of the kids there were involved because their mums and dads were involved. And they were there from the early ages of two, three, four and five and it just continued on in their life. That's just one example. But, I truly believe that it's got to come down from the role models. And the role models are mums and dads.

James
Is it about sort of thinking almost strategically about your life, about maybe you don't have a street where the kids can ride their bikes up and down, but then maybe you do? And if you do, encouraging that. And maybe you don't have a backyard, but if you do, maybe there's room for a trampoline, maybe if you can afford one. Maybe there's a park on the way to school you can stop on the way home. Is it about thinking creatively, I suppose, about where it can come easily?

Michelle
Yes James, that's perfect, it really is. And I think that lends itself to our lives as adults as well. You've got to be thinking ahead and if you are organised enough you can sort of plan your day, map it out, you can fit exercise into your day, you absolutely can. So there's no reason why you can't use those same strategies when it comes to your children. You know, stopping at the park on the way home from picking your kids up from school. Or if there is a park nearby, everybody walks down there and you know spends half an hour kicking the ball around or whatever that might be. I had one family that I worked with and they had a skipping rope hanging up in the kitchen and we put a blackboard up in the kitchen and every day there was a competition on who could get the most skips before they tripped. So you know dad might be in front, then the next day mum might be in front, then the next day the kids might be in front. It became like a bit of a fun game. You just had one crack at it every day in the morning and you're the champion for the day.

James
Oh nice. I reckon I'd get to one. That's an interesting example of a type of exercise where you don't need a lot of space; a lot of people live in apartments. Any specific advice for them about things you can do if you don't have a backyard at all?

Michelle
Yeah absolutely. I can tell you that my heart rate goes up to about 160 when I play handball and you don't need a lot of space for that. So handball, skipping, hopscotch – particularly if you've got younger kids, what a great way to get your heart rate up, clinometric training with the jumps is a lot of fun as well. I think when it comes to children enjoying movement and activity, it shouldn't be, "OK, you've got to do 10 crunches and you've got to do 20 push ups", because they are going to be bored in five seconds. It needs to be a game and it needs to be something that's fun and makes you laugh at the same time, and it definitely needs to have mum and dad involved because then it's a whole lot more fun.

James
Tell us why this is important. What are the benefits of making sure your kids do enough activity?

Michelle
Well the benefits are exactly the same as they are as an adult. You know it's good for your health – mentally, physically and spiritually. And the earlier you start the better. So the benefits for younger children are tenfold. You know, they're laying down some, as far as their growth plates and their development, it's all happening at that point from about five through to about 13, 14 and 15. So they're the fundamental years when it comes to their development. And if there is no exercise involved then it can be almost like the slippery pole. Did you know that we lay down our fat cells through those ages and once they're laid down we keep them for good? And that's not such good news if you have a child that's already obese in that age group because those fat cells are going to stay with them forever.

James
Yeah right. When kids are, for kids who are obese, technically obese, what advice would you have for parents, when there really is a significant weight problem?

Michelle
Look, it's really got to come down to cleaning out the kitchen. Getting that food out of the house. It's clearly being consumed way too easily, too easily accessed. I know there's a lot of parents out there probably saying it's all right for you, you don't have kids, but also I was a kid. I do know what it's like to be whingeing, you know – begging my mum, please can't we have the biscuits, can't we have this and that. My mum was very strict. She used to say to us, "When you grow up and move out and get your own job and you're paying the bills, then you can have what you want. But as far as I'm concerned, living under my roof, this is my place and this is the food that we are eating". My mum dished it out pretty strict like that. We had a certain limited amount of pocket money, you know and I would go buy lollies and stuff. So I could still access it but I think that you can really pull rank and have your house, your kitchen in particular cleaned out of all the foods that are quite clearly holding you and your children back, and then of course the double side of it or the one side is nutrition and the other side is the exercise. Making sure you're attacking it from both directions. You know, I think the days of take away once a week are gone. It seems as though now take away is a regular occurrence. And that's because we are too busy, but I know we're all busy, it's the year 2010, everybody's busy, exercisers are busy. And I always case in point say whether you loved his politics or not – our ex-Prime Minister John Howard always found an hour in his day whether he was overseas or whether he was in the country, to do his one hour of power walking, he was known for it. Now call me old-fashioned, but I kind of think the guy was pretty busy.

James
He probably was. You've spoken about getting rid of the bad food, what about motivational tips to get kids keen on the good food?

Michelle
Well again, the earlier you start with clean, healthy, nutritious, wholesome food the better, their taste buds adapt to it. If though, there are a lot of high-fat, high-sugar foods in their diet then their taste buds adapt to that as well and it can take some time to try and get their tastes to turn around. So again, I say the earlier you start with you know having children experiment with food, trying different tastes and different flavours. Cooking in the kitchen I think that is probably one of the best ways to get kids to eat good, healthy food is actually have them involved in the cooking process. Because then they want to boast to you about how good it is because they cooked it. You know so I think that is definitely one way – get them involved in cooking, get them involved in the kitchen, get them involved in the shopping process you know. Ask them questions – what do you think about this, let's have a look at the nutritional panel, tell me what you think about the contents in here. Actually get them involved rather than always saying, "This is what you must eat."

James
What about when kids get a little big older, we've been talking about younger kids taking them to the park and all those sorts of things, when kids get a bit older and want to be more independent and you have, you know, it's more difficult to pick them all up and say let's all go to the park, and they go, "Oh God." What advice there?

Michelle
Well I think it goes back to, I've said this a couple of times now and I stand by it, the earlier you start the better. If you haven't done anything you know as far as being a role model and having your children being involved in some sort of recreational activity right up until the time they're 10, then you try and do it from there, yeah, it's going to be hard. It's going to be pushing it up hill. So the earlier you start with them, the better and I think not everybody likes sport you know. A lot of people do and a lot of people don't, so it's finding something that your child likes at a young age that they can get involved with, that maybe it can carry them through into an older age or into their teenage years.

James
But if there are parents listening who haven't done that and their child is now 12, all hope is not lost, is it?

Michelle
Certainly not. All hope is definitely not lost. But I think that you are going to have to be creative in what you choose to try and do maybe with them. For example, I used to go along to aqua aerobics classes with my mum and I really kind of liked it because it was fun and there was music. We also used to go to dance classes, so I kind of liked that. We also played tennis, so I think again, it's got to come down to you guys, the parents being involved. And also giving your kids a chance to prove to you that they are able to be independent and maybe go and participate at a gym or at some sort of class of some description without you being there that you can turn up and pick them up, and you can trust that that's what they're doing and you're giving them some I guess sense of independence.

James
Yep. Now finally, a lot of kids are very interested in computers these days, a distraction from the outdoors, that wasn't around when I was a kid. Some computer games now incorporate physical activity. You put it on the TV or something and pretend you're playing tennis or running. I have ambiguous thoughts about that, what about you?

Michelle
Look I do too. I think that nothing beats fresh air and being outdoors and playing and communicating with other people rather than just a TV screen. I don't think you can beat that. But, you know, given particularly the weather we've had in Sydney lately there's going to be times where you can't get outside because it's raining or the weather's bad. It's maybe a fun way to have the kids sort of jumping up and down, you know playing and their heart rates up and movement. But again I don't think it's a touch on being outside and doing the real thing.

James
Michelle, thank you very much.

Michelle
You're welcome. Thank you.

James
Thanks for listening. For more information check out the School A to Z website at www.schoolatoz.com.au.


 

Michelle Bridges
Michelle Bridges

Best known as the straight-talking trainer from The Biggest Loser, Michelle Bridges mixes her tough love message about health and wellbeing with a compassion and understanding that has won the hearts and minds of Australians of all ages, weights and genders. As the nation's favourite personal trainer, Michelle takes her message to schools, corporations and community groups, inspiring and educating children and executives alike. Michelle has published the best-selling books Crunch Time and Crunch Time Cookbook. She is an ambassador for Adidas Women Australia, the National Heart Foundation, the RSPCA and the Fitness Institute Australia.


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