by Paula Van Aken

Professor Emeritus, Marymount College of Fordham University
Registered Dietitian  (RD) with specialty in eating disorders
NYS Certified Dietitian /Nutritionist
Owner, Integrated Health Solutions, Inc.

Recently our family replaced an old TV, one where you actually had to get up out of your chair to change the channel on the dial. Imagine that… no remote! Although our new TV has many more buttons than I would like, it certainly is nice to flip thorough the channels while on my comfy couch. However, it did bring to mind the statistic that Americans can gain several pounds a year just by not having to get up and manually change the channels or volume on their set.

That figure is particularly disturbing when you realize how many children are not just sitting and watching TV, but also sitting at their computers and/or playing video games for extended periods. Aside from organized sports, kids are just not moving as much as they used to. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and adolescents over the last 30 years and the obesity epidemic has even hit newborns. Between 1980 and 2001, the number of overweight infants increased by 74%!

I don’t think I am telling you anything new…but can we do anything about it?

In my nutrition counseling practice, I like to advise my clients to pick three behavior changes to increase their activity.  Three they think they can live with. I also like to point out family centered activities that everyone can do like hiking, biking (the Hudson Valley has some great rail-trails), kayaking, apple picking etc.

Eating together as a family at the kitchen or dining room table has also been shown to decrease family obesity. And when purchasing gifts for birthdays, etc… why not think about those that involve movement such as Dance, Dance Revolution and Nintendo Sports Wii .Studies show that these indoor activities ( exer-gaming) do help children burn excess calories and pounds. In one small British study, children expended 150-200 calories per hour with Nintendo boxing, while other studies show that an intense game of Wii tennis could burn 100 calories in 15 minutes.

So ….although I do admire families that can go without TV, I have to confess I am happy that our old set “expired” and could be replaced. But I promised myself that I would try to do some Pilates mat exercises while watching the new fall line-up this season!



Paula Van Aken MS. RD

Nutrition Consultant/Registered Dietitian

Fishkill, NY