February is a great month to talk about health, as it is both American Heart Month and National Children’s Dental Health Month!  While kids have the same major health checkpoints as adults, they also have a unique set of health needs.  In addition to some great Dental Health Tips provided on the next page, a major part of keeping children happy and healthy is keeping them active.

jeff helaney blue waves martial arts omaha nebraskaPhysical activities are very important component of good health but for many parents, finding the time to encourage their children to participate in daily physical activity can be difficult. Work schedules, multiple extra-curricular activities, and the diverse size of families can be potential roadblocks. Despite these difficulties, it is important that children get at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity every day.  Jeff Helaney of Omaha Blue Waves Martial Arts, Fitness, and Massage Therapy advises, “Martial arts in particular have a host of benefits not found in most other activities. Unlike many sports, martial arts classes have a formalized set of tenets that focus on the development of the whole person. Traditional classes are built around a work ethic that highlights personal responsibility for growth and development. Classes are both physically and mentally demanding. They require the full time attention of the student and a commitment to the hard work required to progress through the rank structure.  If your child has behavioral issues, martial arts might be a good alternative to traditional activities. We encourage you to discuss these options with your health care provider, as martial arts have been proven useful in dealing with a number of issues such as ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and other behavioral, developmental, or cognitive impairments.”  Helaney adds, “At Omaha Blue Waves Martial Arts, Fitness, and Health we take a holistic view on living well. We know that it is especially important for children to develop a healthy outlook on exercise because they are apt to carry these views throughout life. The benefits of regular exercise for children are almost too numerous to mention. It has been proven that regular exercise can help control weight, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of other diseases such as diabetes. In addition to the health benefits of exercise, we know that it can improve confidence and self-esteem.”

kevin hooker elite cheer omaha nebraskaElite Cheer also offers a variety of healthy activities for kids, including competitive cheer and tumbling, power and gymnastics tumbling, as well as karate and jiu jitsu.  Kevin Hooker of Elite Cheer says, “We have students as young as 3 to as old as…well they prefer not to share their age!  With over 800 athletes in our diverse student population, we pride ourselves in offering a wide range of activities at different skill levels that appeal to a wide variety of interests.”

It is important to remember that children are not mini-adults. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically they go through different developmental stages. All physical activities that a child participates in should be developmentally age appropriate. It is important to foster those things that can be done and not promote unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. All physical activities should be developed and/or overseen by a professional who is not only familiar with sport or activity in which the child participates, but has a working understanding of fitness training for children. Before starting any new form of physical activity children should be seen by their health care provider to insure that they do not have any hidden problems.

Every child has at least one spark inside. The spark may be art, music, sports or specialized activities such as martial arts or cheer and tumbling. As parents, is important to encourage these sparks even if they aren’t interests that are shared.  Regular activity is an essential part of being healthy at any age, but for kids it sets the foundation for their future health and wellbeing.