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No. 2

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Doc's Digest
Medical Advice from Dr. Sayre
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Childhood obesity

Part Two of Two

In the last edition of the Court Report, we looked at the scope of the problem of obesity, some of its causes, and a few ways we can limit our caloric intake. Remember though, I stated that weight control is more than just limiting how much we eat. It is a function of "calories in" versus "calories out." In this article we will explore the "calories out" side of the equation.

The human body is an incredibly efficient machine. This fact is a lifesaver if we are in a starvation state; however, when a person is trying to lose weight, this God-given and self-protective mechanism can be maddening. As a person limits caloric intake, the body will compensate by slowing down its metabolic rate, thereby conserving calories. This is likely why I hear so many say, "I just don't understand it, Doc. I'm eating like a bird and I can't seem to lose weight." We really have to force our bodies to maintain caloric output in order to achieve the benefits for which we are striving.

Interestingly, it has been shown that aerobic exercise not only increases caloric consumption during the exercise, but also results in an increased metabolic rate long after the exercise is done. In other words, the benefits of exercise in terms of caloric consumption continue for a long time after the exercise session is completed.

Therefore, in addition to caloric restriction, I recommend at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily. This exercise can be as simple as brisk walking, but it needs to be continuous, and vigorous enough to break a good sweat. Regularity is crucial, and I think it helps to have a set time each day for the exercise routine, broken only by unusual and extenuating circumstances. It is helpful to have some sort of indoor equipment for bad-weather days. Using an exercise bike, treadmill, or rowing machine is a great way to fulfill the requirement on a bad-weather day, and most of this equipment can be adjusted to fit even our preteen children.

Here's a helpful tip: secondhand exercise equipment is often affordable and abundant in the spring, when others unload these guilt-inducing relics of unfulfilled New Year's resolutions. Want a second tip? Exercising with your children can satisfy their educational requirements for P.E.! If your family is anything like ours, you are always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of your daily routine. What a great opportunity to kill a couple of birds with one stone (well, maybe not the best metaphor . . .)!

Arguably, none are more keenly aware of the importance of leading by example than homeschool parents. Our lives are scrutinized 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year after year. And don't children have a knack for recognizing inconsistency, when our practice doesn't measure up to our preaching? The bottom line is this: we cannot hope to force our children to engage in an exercise program if we continue to model the lifestyle of a couch potato. If we expect our children to get fit and stay fit, we must start by providing a good example.

When my wife Mary was pregnant with our first child, we participated in our first 5K race together. Since that time, we have traveled to many races, always including the children, and often running with them to provide encouragement. As the children have grown, it has become a challenge to keep up with them instead of the other way around! This past summer, Mary and I entered a 5K race along with five of our children. It was such a curiosity for the town that the local newspaper ran a special article on our family entitled, "The Family That Runs Together."

For us, having races on the calendar has provided a sense of family cohesiveness and a tangible purpose for our physical fitness activities. Any type of goal can provide the same impetus for your family. It may be helpful to visit the President's Challenge website. This site suggests options for improving fitness for the entire family. You will also find online log books to track your activities, and awards to serve as incentives.

God has charged us with the responsibility of caring for this "temple of the Holy Spirit." By following the simple guidelines outlined in this two-part article, we will not only be obeying God's command, but we will be equipping our children to do the same.

About the author

An HSLDA board member since 1997, Dr. Rodger Sayre is a family physician, and his wife Mary is a registered nurse. They live in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, and teach their 11 children at home. Dr. Sayre received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and maintains board certification in family practice. A Geisinger Medical Group associate with a busy practice in Nicholson, Pennsylvania, he is a member of the Christian Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Sports Medicine.