Father and son take daily walks for health

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Like many boys his age, nine-year-old Leo* likes playing on his iPad and PlayStation. Leo’s parents became concerned for his health when they could no longer buy clothes in the size for Leo’s age.

Before lockdown, he enjoyed junior parkrun and had just started karate, but when these activities came to a halt, his screen time increased.

His dad said: “Over the past few years, we have seen our son’s activity levels decrease and as a result his weight increase.”

‘We knew we needed to address the issue’

“This is when we knew we needed to address the issue,” said Dad.

“We received little support from our GP and were fed up of hearing things like ‘he will shoot up soon’, so we took matters into our own hands and signed up for this support.”

Leo and his Dad joined the online course together (although Mum and big brother were often listening in on the webinars and shouting out the answers), and they began making healthy changes to their lifestyle.

Talking to children about their weight and health habits doesn’t always go smoothly, and sometimes kids are understandably resistant to joining in.

Although Leo wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the programme, he understood why he was doing it — and he got involved in every session.

Dad got really involved too. He found it useful to be able to speak to both a professional and other parents.

He said: “Being able to openly discuss the issue with no judgment has been really helpful. For me, this health programme has been even more useful to me as a parent than to my son.”

The psychological side of habit change

Whilst Leo’s family were already well-educated in what makes a healthy and balanced diet, they found the psychological side of habit change the most useful aspect of the course.

“We have realised that knowing what you need to do and actually doing it are very different. We understand it is a slow process, but are beginning to see positive changes.”

A slow process it may be, but they were able to make some instant changes to their habits and routines, and have reduced their snacking, reduced their portion sizes and increased their daily exercise — from just a few minutes to around an hour each day.

“As part of the course we introduced an evening walk into our routine. This was originally a battle and often took as long arguing about whether to go, than we were walking for.

“But after a few months we both look forward to the walk. Now he even talks about where he likes to walk and has recently started planning the routes himself.”

“It is has brought us closer together and gives Leo some one-on-one time with me.”

*Not his real name, the family wished to remain anonymous.

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26 April, 2023