(Tuesday, May 20th, 2014)
published at The Inertia
“It’s autumn time here in Brazil, and even though Rio de Janeiro’s got such a tropical climate, it is impossible not to notice how hard even the slightest drop in the outdoor temperature will affect young swimmers – especially those in the middle childhood and preteen age groups. So when it comes down to feeling comfortable in chillier waters, parents must be fully aware about the importance of promoting healthy eating habits for their little ones.
In a Swimming for Surfing program I run in Barra da Tijuca, my three and four-year-old students seem to be 100% absorbed by the joy of simply being out and playing in the water; however, no matter how hard I try to motivate my older ones (ages 5-10) with a thorough warm-up and other pedagogical strategies, not only does this latter group complain more about feeling cold, but it gets to the point where I need to take some of them out of the water before the lesson is even over.
Lesson time varies between 30 and 45 minutes, and while the pool we use has a decent heating system, I encourage all parents to have their kids wear wetsuits. Our main climate-related issue has to do with the fact that our pool area is an open one, and Barra da Tijuca typically suffers from severe wind gusts throughout the day.
In this context, it’s important to address the aspect of the kids’ fitness as it relates to their endurance against cold.
In the mentioned age range, these kids are yet to experience a more significant lean mass growth that would allow them to increase their capacity of retaining internal body heat for longer periods of time. For that reason, I believe we must pay special attention to their diet.
We certainly don’t want to foster child obesity. And I’m not talking about forcing kids to endure extreme cold either (please remember that this is Rio de Janeiro). Children who are underweight will eventually be less successful at keeping up with their swimming/surfing lessons year-round, in an environment where their well-nourished peers will probably find no major difficulties in maintaining those practices.
Regardless of how obvious this may sound, I would urge all parents to pay attention to their children’s nutritional habits. I say this not only from a maritime educational perspective but because bad nutritional habits will most certainly restrict their possibilities in other aspects of their lives.
In that regard, one may wonder what kind of health and nutritional education should we aim to promote? What specifically should we, as parents, know? How should we educate our kids with regard to nutrition and health practices?
Indeed, even though nowadays most of us may have access to good nutritional practices, carrying out such goals among our children can be a tough, sometimes cruel, task. In a world where fast food and simple carbohydrates are so popular, encouraging kids not to skip breakfast/lunch/dinner and to include fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, potato (keeping French fries and industrialized chips to a minimum) and lots of water to their diet would most certainly constitute a good place to start.
On top of that, I believe not much progress will be achieved unless the kids are brought into a comprehensive School Physical Education program wherein the P.E. teachers inevitably assume the responsibility of having children confront not only each other’s skills, but also each other’s daily habits. I believe that’s where teachers may find some room to explore the students’ nutritional habits. This could enlighten them to the cause-and-effect relationships between what their peers are used to having for breakfast, for example, and why they may have performed better. Dealing with those facts may assist in the adoption of healthier nutritional habits.
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