Health & Fitness

Athlete steps out of videogame to promote fitness

Apparently it's so hard to get kids to turn off their Xbox 360s and get active that MultiCare has enlisted the enemy for help.

Tuesday is MultiCare’s annual “Do Something Healthy” night and the highlight will be an appearance by snowboarding phenom Shaun White.

Few Olympic athletes have made more money inspiring kids to play video games than White. According to Forbes Magazine, White made $8 million in 2009, much of that money coming from his snowboarding and skateboarding video games.

But White won’t be hawking video games Tuesday night. Instead, the 24-year-old is in town to inspire kids to be more active.

“I try to encourage kids to enjoy themselves: Work hard in school and fulfill your responsibilities, but also play hard,” White said in Healthy Living, MultiCare’s community newsletter. “Have fun, go outside and challenge yourself physically.”

Good luck. You think a Double McTwist 1260 is tough, try motivating Pierce County kids to turn off the TV.

According to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey conducted in 2008, 59 percent of Pierce County eighth-graders have more than three hours of screen time per day, compared to 51 percent for the state.

Kids shouldn’t be spending more than two hours in front of screens, said Darcy Celletti, director of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties Center for Community Impact. Celletti says kids should be active for at least an hour per day. According to the survey, 58 percent of Pierce County eighth-graders aren’t getting an hour of exercise per day, compared with 54 percent statewide.

MultiCare is expecting about 1,200 people to turn out Tuesday night, but no matter how eloquent White is, his inspiration will only go so far.

The real inspiration needs come from home.

Dr. Mark Mariani says the best way to inspire kids to be active is for parents to get moving.

“Regardless of whether its two parents or a single parent, it’s important to be intentional about modeling (an active) behavior,” Mariani said. “We know that kids are more likely to follow their parents’ behaviors, whether it’s being active or smoking because they see their parents puffing away around the house.”

Mariani, who specializes in sports medicine, credits his parents’ active lifestyle with his career choice He fell in love with physical fitness while skiing, running, playing basketball and “just going outside” with his parents when he was a child.

“It doesn’t have to be anything complex,” Mariani said. “It could just be going for a walk on a regular basis.”

Mariani and Celletti say parents can help kids get more active by eliminating barriers. And both agree that screens – whether TV, computers or video games – are the biggest barrier.

Celletti suggests putting screen time on the clock – no more than two hours.

“Our culture is so sedentary,” Celletti said. “We’re not saying kids need to be in sports, just be more active. The younger they start, the better.”

For many families, the gloominess of winter can deter physical activity, but that shouldn’t be the case.

Celletti’s family uses the Wii Fit video game for more active play, but Celletti says games like this or the Xbox Kinect should still count toward your kids’ two hours of screen time.

Mariani says go outside anyway. “Embrace the wetness,” he said.

Many local gyms offer programs for children and some even offer financial assistance for those who need it.

“There are so many ways to get active,” Celletti said. “If we can just get kids to replace one hour of screen time with an hour of being active, we’ll be doing a lot better.”

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs on Sundays in The News Tribune and The Olympian. Please submit questions and comments via craig.hill@thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.

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