Dr. Alanna Levine: The prevalence of overweight children has doubled in the past 20 years, and currently, one out of six children is overweight. As a nation, we need to intervene now and get our kids on the right track! Their good habits will last a lifetime.
As a parent, I know firsthand how difficult this can be, especially with kids who come home from school and park themselves on the couch. Recently, however, things have changed in my house. My kids discovered martial arts.
What started as just another after-school activity has transformed both of my children, both physically and emotionally. Through karate, they are strengthening their muscles, enhancing their flexibility, and improving their cardiovascular health. At the same time, they are building their confidence, and learning discipline and respect. But most importantly, they are having fun! In fact, my six-year-old daughter, Sophie, begs to take classes six days a week -- even after a long day at school or camp.
She comes out of class red in the face and sweating, but smiling on a natural high. Her behavior at home has improved tremendously since she started to train. In the evenings, she rarely asks to go on the computer or watch TV anymore. I do find her practicing center splits in her room from time to time, though.
A martial arts program is more than just fitness. It provides a forum for kids to gain confidence and feel proud of themselves. They aren't rewarded for simply showing up, but for their dedication and accomplishments. Sophie is generally a shy child. She is quiet in school, and rarely asserts herself in group settings. But, inside the karate studio, she is the loudest child in the class. She counts in Japanese with such confidence as she throws her punches. She proudly wears her gi (uniform) and belt, and works hard to advance to the next level.
The creed each student says during class sums up the goals of the program beautifully: "As a student of Thomas Clifford's Martial Arts, I seek to develop true confidence through a stronger body, sharper mind, and non-quitting spirit."
My husband and I have been so inspired by our children that we started taking classes too. To quote our sensei, "A family that kicks together, sticks together!"
|Dr. Alanna Levine is a pediatrician in private practice and on staff at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, where she attends high risk deliveries and cares for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She is a national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and frequently appears on television as a medical expert. Dr. Levine lives in New York with her husband and their two children.|