Giving Your Grades A High
As millions of students are beginning a new school year, health, fitness and nutrition play a primary role to insure optimal learning and create abundant energy. Emphasis needs to be placed on providing our youth lifelong advice on sports training, injury prevention, spinal health and posture, healthy eating and hydration.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO BE HEALTHY AND FIT?
• Eat healthy meals. Eating a well-balanced diet without skipping meals will help maintain an appropriate weight and decrease risk of developing diabetes and heart disease as one becomes an adult. Eliminate all trans fats which includes almost all fast foods. Serve a minimum of 5 portions of fresh fruits and vegetables daily, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and lean meats, fish and poultry. Purchase wild fish and organic food products as often as possible.
Why eat breakfast? Breakfast will not only increase your overall energy, but also keep your blood sugar levels even and will reduce your cravings and overeating throughout the day. Think of breakfast as brain food that will help improve concentration and improve performance at school. It will prevent a mid-morning slump and reduce the tendency to eat higher calorie snacks.
In a published statement by Tufts University, a link was found between nutrition and cognitive development in children which recognized that “Children who participated in the School Breakfast Program were shown to have significantly higher standardized achievement test scores than eligible non-participants.
What foods to eat on the go for breakfast?
Some choices to pick from:
1. Hard- boiled egg, whole grain bread and fruit
2. Low fat cheese, fruit and low fat granola bar
3. Whole wheat/grain English muffin or bread with natural almond butter and fruit
4. Pre-cooked chicken/turkey sausage, whole wheat/grain bread and fruit
5. Veggie patty, whole wheat/grain bread and fruit
5. Fruit smoothie with variety fresh/frozen fruit, protein powder and plain non-fat yogurt
6. Plain non-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with your own fruit, seeds and whole/grain bread
7. Whole wheat tortilla with cheese and fruit
• Keep kids active. Our children need at least an hour of physical activity daily. This includes playing outdoors, sports and calisthenics. Without regularly scheduled exercise, children will opt to watching excessive television, as well as playing video and computer games for lengthy periods of time. Although these activities are stimulating creativity and developing hand-eye coordination, they contribute nothing to a child’s level of fitness and increase stress on the spine. More children over the last number of years suffer from back pain and headaches simply because they don’t get enough exercise.
• Setting healthy boundaries around electronic activities. Begin with a non-threatening simple conversation about what they have heard about online media usage to get them to think without defensiveness. Next, make some agreed upon limits to cell phone and texting usage. For example: no cell phones at dinner or certain other times of the day. Ask to be “friended” so you can periodically check for any concerns. As a family, designate a certain amount of time a day or one day a week where the whole family does offline games and other activities together. Plan a fun family trip with everyone engaged in the process and unplugging all electronics.
• Drink water. Hydration is a key factor in keeping your child’s muscles working properly and avoiding an injury. Teenage youth should drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Younger youth should drink a minimum of five 8-ounce glasses per day. Carbonated beverages, juices and other sweet drinks are not a substitute. Sugar-sweetened drinks are the main culprits that add more sugar to our diets. On average, Americans eat about 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day, which adds up to 355 calories per day, an increase of 19 percent since the year 1970.
• Take vitamins on a daily basis and avoid “trendy” supplements. A multi-vitamin and fish oil are of benefit for all our kids. To reduce the pain from contact sports one may want to consider: Vitamin C, Vitamin B and amino acids, Thiamine and Vitamin A. Kids under the age of 18, should avoid performance-enhancing supplements as creatine, but instead should ask their coach about weekly weight-training sessions.
• Preparing the young athlete for sports activities. It is vital for parents and coaches to help prepare their athletes’ body and learn how to protect them from sports-related injuries before they happen by receiving the proper warm up stretching and weight-lifting exercises. A slow jog, jumping rope and/or lifting small light weights, warming up all the major muscle groups before every practice, game or meet improves flexibility and reduces injury. All equipment should be fitted properly and be damage-free.
• What about soccer? During the past 25 years, soccer passed baseball as the most popular team sport in the United States. However, some youngsters are enduring mild to severe head traumas, neck and back injuries, headaches, dizziness, irritability and insomnia as a result of playing soccer, especially in “heading” the ball. “Heading” the ball is the deliberate use of the head to redirect the ball which has caused controversy over possible permanent head and body damage. Children should be given correct techniques from their coach to be safe and “heading” the ball should be held off until about 14-16 years old which is based on maturation and development of the spine. Additionally, smaller balls should be used for the younger player, as well as strict enforcement of the rules by the coach, padding of goal posts and use of mouth guards.
• Parents should encourage a broad spectrum of activities that include: skating, skiing, tennis, etc, to encourage development and movement of muscles, ligaments and joints throughout the whole body.
• If an injury occurs. Think RICE–Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation which is the honored protocol to follow. Apply the ice for about 20-minute every hour or so, until the swelling is down. After 20 minutes, ice will fatigue the blood vessels and cause a heat reaction that generally will increase swelling. Try having the child move the injured body part as soon as possible. If the pain persists and does not improve daily, is warm to the touch, the child begins to run a fever, or the pain seems out -of-proportion to the degree of trauma, consider taking your child to your doctor and/or chiropractor.
• Lighten your child’s load. A new and disturbing trend is emerging due to the use of overweight backpacks for our youth, leading to back pain much earlier than previous generations, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). A study conducted in Italy a few years ago, found that the average child may be carrying a backpack equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound load for a 132-pound woman, causing a growing trend in back pain among youngsters.
Steps to safe backpack use:
The maximum weight of your child’s backpack should not exceed 10% of his or her body weight. (ex: a child weighing 85 pounds should not have a pack exceeding 8.5 pounds) A heavier pack will cause your child to bend forward to support the weight on his or her back rather than the shoulders, by the straps.
Choose the correct size backpack. It should never hang more than four inches below the waistline or it will put increased weight on the shoulders and cause your child to lean forward when walking.
Contents in your pack are most effectively positioned with individualized compartments. Bulky or pointy objects should not be packed on the area that will rest on your child’s back.
The straps should be wide and padded and both straps should be worn. Improperly using one strap over the shoulder can cause permanent misalignment of the spine, muscle spasms and back pain. They should be adjustable so they are fitted to your child’s body and not dangle uncomfortably which can also cause a shift of weight and result in spinal pain. If the backpack has a waist strap use it!
Lift correctly by facing the pack, bend at the knees, using both hands check the weight of the pack, lift with the legs and apply one strap and then the other.
Discuss options with your child’s teacher if the backpack is too heavy. Your child may be able to leave heavy books at school and bring home hand-outs and lighter workbooks.
Get plenty of sleep. A minimum of eight hours of rest per night is ideal for our youth. Lack of sleep can decrease performance in both schoolwork and sports. When a child shows signs of irritability, sluggishness and/or loss of interest, it may indicate your child is fatigued.
What about computer ergonomics? Workstations need to be properly fit for a child’s body to avoid harmful physical effects that can last a lifetime as repetitive motion injuries (RMI), carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the hands, back, neck and shoulders. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) noted a recently published study from researchers at Cornell University and found that about 40 percent of the elementary school children they studied used computer workstations that put them at postural risk. The remaining 60 percent scored in a range indicating “some concern.”
5 Tips for you to know.
Workstation chair: This should fit your child by using an ergonomic back cushion, pillow or a rolled-up towel placed in the small of the child’s back for postural support. Arm supports are needed so that the elbows are resting within a 70 to 135 degree angle to the keyboard. It is best to have two inches between the front edge of one’s seat and the back of the knees. Feet should be placed on a foot rest or similar object so your child’s knees are positioned at about a 90-120 degree angle.
Neutral wrist position: Wrists should not be angled up or down, nor should your child have to reach or hold his or her arm away from the body.
Reducing eyestrain and eye fatigue: Your child should have adequate lighting and a no glare screen if possible. The best positioning of the monitor is having the screen at or below the child’s eye level. To accomplish this, you may need to take the computer off its base or stand, or have your child sit on firm pillows, phone books, etc to reach the desired height.
It is vital to limit your child’s time while at the computer: Encourage periodic stretch breaks about every hour or so. Stretching can include a minimum of one minute of: putting hands in a praying position while squeezing them together for 10-20 seconds and repeating with the hands pointing downward; spreading the fingers apart and bringing them together one at a time; clenching hands into a fist and moving them inwardly in a circle for a count of 10 and then outwardly for a count of 10; squeezing a hand exercise squeeze ball for about 1-2 minutes and/or standing with wrapping the arms around the body and turning all the way to the left and then to the right.
Suggest correct computer ergonomic education at your child’s school.
EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT AND HAS UNIQUE NEEDS.
Our goal is to support our children and create a healthy space for them to enjoy optimal wellness. Kids are natural explorers as they run, fall and bounce around a lot. They are quite resilient as their ability to recover quickly from an injury is one of the great benefits of being young. However, one of these injuries may impact a child’s spine without causing any or little lasting pain and have a long-term effect on spinal muscles, ligaments and spinal nerve function. If muscles and ligaments are irritated or inflamed, the mechanical integrity of the spine is compromised. The short and long-term results may result in loss of range of motion in the neck, back or one or more joints, muscle pain, stiffness and tightness, headaches, numbness or tingling, frequent colds, gastrointestinal problems, allergies and asthma. Therefore, when it comes to vibrant health for you and your family, preventing a problem is easier than treating a problem.
Iris Rosenfeld, DC is a published author and was given Woman of the Year Award. Since beginning her practice in 1985, her services are tailored to meet one’s needs structurally, nutritionally and emotionally thru eliminating the interferences that lead to dysfunction, pain and disease. She utilizes different techniques to empower one to achieve greater well-being.