Dr. Zorba Paster: - The Buffalo News

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Dr. Zorba Paster:

Recent research from the British Medical Journal pointed out that not teaching our kids about good health in school may be short-sighted. Emphasizing academics only may be the wrong mantra to chant. Let’s look at the researchers’ thoughts.

In the U.S. and in England, academic achievement is measured by high scores on such tests as the ACT and SAT. Preparing our kids for the future means they need to score high.

What is not measured by these tests is how healthy they are. But isn’t that part of what we should be teaching our children?

So what about physical education? I don’t mean the PE of the past, which only meant team sports, but the PE of the future, which shows our kids the right way to exercise, the right way to eat and the right way to avoid diseases – including STDs, the most common disease of young people.

We are talking about PE that teaches about cancer and heart disease and how to avoid it, and PE that emphasizes what today’s children need to stay well as tomorrow’s adults.

The researchers note that there is a body of knowledge showing a healthy child is more likely to be a happy, productive adult and that stressing academics to the detriment of a holistic approach is short-sighted. Many other countries such as Singapore, Sweden and Australia – which, by the way, are ahead of us academically – include this type of education.

So if our schools aren’t emphasizing physical education, then you should do so at home. Learning doesn’t happen just at school, it also happens at home. So, parents, on to my recommendations.

First, let’s talk about food. Make time to cook together with your kids. It’s summer. Go to your local farmers’ market, let the kids pick out some veggies (and fruit for dessert), grab a cookbook and party on. To get them to eat right, they have to be part of the process. Opening up a can of Chef Boyardee Beefaroni (which is loaded with salt) is not the same as cooking a pasta dish with fresh vegetables.

If you don’t cook, then learn with them. I learned to cook when I was in medical school. There were five of us, mostly nonmedical students, sharing one ramshackle apartment. Everyone had a night to cook, and we all tried to outdo each other. My four children learned to cook because they cooked with me and my wife.

Next, let’s look at exercise. Do it with your kids. Whether it’s walking down the street, hitting the gym or something else, studies show that if you exercise, your children will, too.

That also means shutting off all electronics. Just like you need to limit TV, you need to limit screen time and phone time, too. I’m a big proponent of a no-screen night for everyone.

And finally, start talking to your children about your family tree. If your parents have died, what was the cause? Was it related to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, a car accident or poor lifestyle? This can bring home the idea that the next generation can make a difference for themselves with lifestyle choices.

So often we don’t talk about the proverbial Uncle Jake, who drank too much and died too soon. We mention those who lived long lives, but not the others. This can be one of those family teaching moments.

Dr. Zorba Paster hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email him at zorba@wpr.org.

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