Online Training - We Can!® Energize Our Families: Parent Program
Chapter 7: Parent Program Session 4: Less Sit, More Fit— ENERGY OUT
Welcome to Chapter 7 of the Parent Program online training. Here we will describe the last session in the Parent Program, Session 4—Less Sit, More Fit: ENERGY OUT.
In this last session of the Parent Program, the focus is on the second half of the energy balance equation—ENERGY OUT. The leader’s goal is to guide participants through strategies for improving ENERGY OUT by helping them increase and find fun in physical activity, and reduce screen time.
Since this is the final session of the program, you will also be offering parents tips on how to maintain their progress after the program has ended. And, as mentioned in Session 1 (Chapter 4 of this training), you will be asking participants to complete the Tell Us What You Think Now evaluation tool to give you a good sense of how effective the training program was in teaching them about eating healthier foods, being more physically active, and reducing screen time.
Before getting into the discussion on physical activity, it is a good idea to review the physical activity recommendations for adults and children that were discussed during Session 2.
- Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, physical activity on most days of the week and, if possible, 60 minutes, when trying to maintain weight.
- Children should be physically active at least 60 minutes on most, if not all, days.
Note that these recommendations are consistent with the new Physical Activity Guidelines for American released in 2008. They recommend that adults should get up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity per week. And, children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more per day.
For many families, increasing physical activity may seem too difficult for a variety of reasons. We Can! focuses on helping participants find FUN in physical activity. In this session, you’ll engage participants in a discussion about the enjoyable aspects of physical activity.
Encourage group participants to think about a time when they were active, whether recently or in the past. Ask them to share their thoughts on:
- How did they feel after a workout or doing something physically active?
- What is, or could be, fun about physical activity for them?
- What would make them go back for more?
- Why do they think that a lot of us, including children, aren’t getting enough physical activity even though we know it’s important?
We Can! has prepared a list of suggestions that you can share with the group to help overcome challenges that prevent families from getting enough physical activity. The Make Physical Activity Fun handout is a We Can! resource that you may distribute to parents to stimulate a dialogue about ways that families can build physical activity into a busy week.
Here are some of the suggestions from the handout:
Bring others into it.
- Invite friends and family to be active together. Plan a party with physically active games and activities for your family and your children’s friends.
- Try developing new friendships for your children with other children who are physically active.
- Identify available time slots for you and your family to use for physical activity. For example, go for a walk on a Saturday morning or after dinner.
- Physical activity can become a regular part of your family’s schedule if you plan ahead and write it on the family calendar. One idea is to enroll your children in sports teams or lessons.
Build new skills.
- Join a class or find someone to teach you and your children new skills for new activities.
Make the most of all weather conditions.
- Find physical activities that you and your family enjoy doing regardless of the weather. Don’t let unpleasant weather stop you. Make sure that you have both indoor and outdoor activities on your list.
During Session 4, the Boston Public Health Commission Parent Program facilitators encourage parents to talk about ways to create realistic physical activity and screen time changes for their families that build upon their existing routines. They also try to build in time for exchange of information on nearby recreational facilities.
Discussing ways to increase physical activity and boost ENERGY OUT is important. But, it’s useful for parents to also be aware of physical inactivity and what behaviors contribute to that. Children are spending more time than ever in front of screens—TVs, computers, and video games—and when they do that, they are being physically inactive and burning fewer calories. Often, they are also eating while in front of the screen.
Why do health experts recommend no more than 2 hours per day of recreational screen time for children?
- When children are in front of the screen, they are inactive and, therefore, not burning any calories.
- Children often eat when they are in front of a screen, making it even more challenging to maintain energy balance.
- Children are exposed to food commercials when they watch TV, often for foods high in calories and low in nutrients, that is, SLOW and WHOA foods. In fact, children are exposed to about 40,000 television ads per year.
Screen time statistics among youth are alarming. We Can! has compiled some statistics on screen time that you can share with parents to get them thinking about just how much time children are spending in front of screens. Here are a few:
- 53 percent, or about half, of all 8- to 18-year olds say their families have no rules about TV watching.
- On average, 8- to 18-year olds spend nearly 4 hours watching TV, videos, and DVDs every day.
- Two-thirds of young people have a TV, ½ have a video game player, and nearly 1/3 have a computer in their bedrooms.
For the next part of the session, the leader can distribute and discuss the handout called We Can! Help Children Reduce Screen Time. Some of the tips listed include:
- Set limits on screen time.
- Make meal time a family time with conversation instead of TV.
- Provide other options for family activity, such as going for a walk or taking a bike ride together.
- Don’t use TV as a reward or punishment for children’s behavior. And
- Teach children to become media savvy.
Parents need to first figure out how much time their children are spending in front of the screen. The We Can! Reduce Children’s Screen Time Log is a handy guide for parents to use and share with their family to track time spent in front of a screen. They can use this log to help children reach a goal of fewer than two hours per day of screen time.
Before concluding the Parent Program, it is important to lead the group in a discussion about how they will maintain both the large and small changes they incorporated into their families’ lifestyles during the course of the program.
The We Can! Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight for Life handout will help you guide the discussion. It lists some simple tips to help families sustain Energy Balance, stay motivated, and handle setbacks in order to maintain a healthy weight for life.
In Lexington, Kentucky, program leaders from the Tweens Fitness Coalition, a We Can! General Community Site, stay connected with parents to help them keep motivated after going through the four sessions. Leaders host We Can! reunions and ask participants to come prepared to discuss one success and one challenge they’ve experienced since their participation in the program. Parents enjoy catching up with each other and learning from their peers.
A follow-up e-mail might be just one or two sentences about a quick and healthy dinner idea, information about a walking group, a referral to a new class that the kids might like, or a general way to market information about We Can!
Just before you finish Session 4, since it is the last session in the program, you’ll invite the participants to complete the Tell Us What You Think Now evaluation tool. This is the same Tell Us What You Think form that you had participants fill out before starting the program. This helps assess how effective the Parent Program has been in teaching parents to practice healthier eating behaviors, be more physically active, and reduce screen time.