In It For Health

Where health and psychology intersect

Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Does your child have the mid-winter blues?

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 4, 2012

At this time of year kids and teens may be susceptible to the winter blues, which, in its more serious form, is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD usually occurs during the winter months, when it is colder and there is less sunlight, although, one does not have to live in a freezing, snowy climate to experience seasonal depression. Those living in milder climates may also experience the blues.

It is important to learn the symptoms of depression in children so you can recognize them, and if necessary, address them immediately. All types of depression are more common in older children and teens, but it is possible for a younger child to experience SAD, especially with a family history of depression. Therefore, if your child’s behavior seems to change with the season, it is time to take notice.

Childhood depression often looks different from the adult type. Even very sad kids will appear happy sometimes—during a funny movie, or playing with friends, but it doesn’t mean they are fine. Children typically have mood fluctuations, even if they are depressed.

The most common symptoms of SAD (and childhood depression) include:

  • Feeling sad, overly sensitive or      crying excessively
  • Anger, crankiness, moodiness
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping      more than usual
  • Eating much more or less than      usual (for an extended period of time, not just a day or two)
  • Low energy level, difficulty      concentrating
  • Reduced interest in normal activities      at home, in school and socially
  • Stomachaches, headaches or other      physical complaints that don’t respond to medical treatment
  • Thoughts of death or suicide      (not as common in young children)

 

Not every depressed or sad child will exhibit every symptom; some may have only two or three. If you think that your child has the winter blues, take these five steps:

  1. Continue to observe. Watch your child’s behavior for a week or so. Then,      if you still see symptoms and feel that he is emotionally under the weather,      move to step #2.
  2. Talk to your child. Ask how she is feeling. Inquire about possible      school and friend stressors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—you won’t “give      your child ideas”  that she doesn’t      already have. If there is no significant stressor, but she still seems      unhappy, move to step #3.
  3. Talk to the teacher. In most cases, when a child has the blues, his      behavior will change everywhere, not just at home, so the teacher is sure      to notice any mood change too. If the teacher (and other significant adults      in your child’s life), confirms your concerns, move to step #4
  4. Meet with your child’s doctor. It is important to rule out      medical factors that may cause a child’s mood to change. For example,      either mononucleosis or hypothyroidism can cause low energy level or      trouble concentrating. After ruling out medical factors, you and the      doctor can decide the next step. If the doctor recommends that you speak      with a mental health professional, do so right away. See step #5.
  5. Seek expert help. If treatment is necessary, it will vary depending on      the severity of your child’s symptoms and her age. No one child is the      same and there are several treatment options, including light therapy,      increased natural light exposure, talk therapy or medication.
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Child-Obesity ads gone wild

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 6, 2011

There is a furor about Georgia’s child-obesity campaign which portrays overweight kids, with seriously depressed facial expressions, talking about how bleak their present life is and how bad their future will be, unless they lose weight.

Now, I’m all for shock-value if it gets the job done, but this ad is a problem. To begin, it give ammunition to other kids who bully, or are considering bullying an overweight child. From a kid’s perspective: “If you’re talking about all the negatives that you experience, then why can’t I?” It’s not a taboo subject anymore.

Next, the parents and educators who are not already working on helping overweight children won’t really be impacted by this–they know that this is what the kids look like already–it’s live in front of them! What they really need to see is overweight adults in the ads talking about what it was like to be an overweight kid and still be overweight–and then remind the viewer of the ads to take responsibility for helping the kids.

Using vulnerable kids–those in the ads and the those who will inadvertently become associated with the ads–creates an unfair playing field. The adults need to take responsibility for the problem and of course, the solution.

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Turn the TV off…seriously, you might die!

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 11, 2010

This study finds that for every hour a day you watch TV, you increase your risk of dying–from any cause–by 11%. For dying from cardiovascular disease, the increased risk was 18%. The study goes on to say that when they compared people who watched less than two hours of TV a day to those who watched more than four, the four-hour watchers had an 80% greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease.

OK, that’s scary! But the issue is not about TV exactly…it’s about NOT moving your body! The more TV you watch, the more likely you are to be sedentary, the more likely you are to NOT be healthy. You get it, right. So…turn off the TV and take a walk….or some day someone may find you kicked-off in front of the TV, having breathed your last breath. Wouldn’t that be ironic!

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Beware of weight-loss spam!

Posted by Dr. Susan on January 6, 2010

It’s interesting, but this new study shows that young adults and teens are more likely to be suckers for purchasing the products you receive in weigh-loss spam!! Don’t do it. No matter how bad you feel about your body in that moment (or the email makes you feel it), this stuff at best likely doesn’t work and at worst is bad or DANGEROUS for you. This includes supplements, liquids, and detoxification products. All of these can make your heart beat too fast and throw off your electrolytes–both of which can cause a heart attack, resulting in death–yup, really!

Stick with traditional, healthy weight loss techniquest–the kinds that come from your doctor or a well-balanced diet and exercise. Sorry!! There really are no quick fixes, expecially when it comes to your health. So make sure you hit the delete button, quickly.

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Stay Healthy after losing your job

Posted by Dr. Susan on May 5, 2009

Losing your job might be the toughest experience you’ve ever had and you’re likely to want to climb into bed, eat junk food and watch TV! But, this won’t help you find another job. In fact, staying healthy will not only keep your body looking and feeling good–it will help you at interviews, by keeping your mind sharper too. Check out this article for some easy, inexpensive, practical tips to keep yourself from getting into a big slump!

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A recession maybe, but not when it comes to cheap sweets!

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 26, 2009

Since the crash of the market, there’s been an uptick in purchases of inexpensive candy and cheap chocolates! This great NY Times article, explains that even as we wallow in the demise of life as we knew it, we continue to soothe ourselves with instant gratification!

Despite the fact that we know eating too much junk food is not good for our health,  we still associate sweets with helping ourselves feel better and we’re suckers (no pun intended!) for the feeling that we had when we were innocent kids at the corner candy shop and all was right with the world.

So as we get fatter (again!) while we lose all our money, yet another corporate entity–the candy makers–are raking in the bucks. Let’s not let that happen!!! A little good-quality chocolate once in a while is great for stress reduction (it increases your feel-good neurotransmitters), but please don’t sacrifice your health for a quick sugar fix all the time!

Instead, when you’re feeling a little down, take a walk, talk to a friend, write in a journal, ask your kid to tell you some funny knock-knock jokes. All of these will lift your spirits just as well…maybe better…than candy, and without the negative side effects.

Also, when you’re stressed, don’t jump to other negative habits. Smoking, drinking, drugs–you know the drill. Over-eating is on that list too.

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TV time in teens linked to depression…interesting

Posted by Dr. Susan on February 9, 2009

Does your child watch a lot of TV? If so, here’s yes ANOTHER compelling reason to make a change! This new study finds that the more TV teens watch (especially boys), the more likely they are to become depressed as young adults. The researchers theorize that watching TV isolates kids, which makes them less likely to interact with peers–having a strong social network innoculates one against depression; or play sports–physical activity has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression.

However, you can’t suddenly tell your teen to stop watching TV, you need to set the rules when your child is young and stick with them all the way through, beginning with no TV in bedrooms!

What’s more–if YOU are depressed, the same rules apply to you: TV isn’t helping you feel better. So turn it  off and get out…talk to your friends and go for a walk. Even better…go for a walk with your friends!

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But WHY are older kids exercising less?

Posted by Dr. Susan on July 18, 2008

A new study finds that as kids they enter their teens, the rate of exercise drops off. I wonder if the researchers have taken a close look at the lives of teenagers and their environments. I’m quite confident that a significant part of the reason that exercise decreases is because once kids leave elementary school the amount of mandatory physical education they require begins to drop precipitously in many school districts. Instead schools are focused solely on academics. In addition, as kids enter middle and high school, intramural sports fall by the wayside. Whereas your little kid could play soccer, basketball or baseball no matter how talented he or she was, by twelve years old, all schools care about is competition. Intramurals no longer exist so kids who want to play ‘just for the fun of it’ are out of luck. Their opportunity for organized exercise dries up almost overnight, along with an entire social experience. So let’s not point fingers at the kids. Once again, its time for the systems in place to help us out and provide options to support our kids.

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Eat breakfast!

Posted by Dr. Susan on March 3, 2008

A new study finds that teens who eat breakfast, tend to weigh less, exercise more, have a healthier diet, and are healthier overall. Interesting. There has actually been lots of research and clincal confirmation over the years that supports the theory that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. First, when you don’t eat breakfast, you’re starving by later in the day and tend to binge on high carb foods. Next, you also have an energy slump and are less likely to be active or to be able to focus well. Of course there are many who disagree with this theory–teens and others. They say they’re not hungry first thing in the morning. Okay, I can see that, but then take a bar or some fruit for mid morning whe you do get hungry–just don’t skip the meal all together.

I strongly recommend that parents make sure that younger kids eat breakfast, even if it’s just something small. The message you want to give your kids…and your own body…is that there is always time for self-nurturing

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