Yesterday I talked about an adorable kids’ book, Wallie Exercises, which is a cute read with an inspirational health message. Today I’m sharing a Q&A with the author himself, fitness expert Steve Ettinger. He shares his thoughts on kids’ health and fitness, obesity prevention, setting a good example, and why kids don’t need to be tricked into fitness!
Interview with Steve Ettinger
- FBM: What inspired you to write a book about a lazy dog who eventually finds out that exercise can be fun?
- SE: The main character, Wallie, was inspired by my dog growing up, who in fact was very lazy! The idea to write a book that encourages kids to exercise came about when I was working in elementary schools as a behavior therapist while simultaneously building my fitness business. I was already well aware of the issues involved with childhood obesity, but seeing inactivity and poor nutrition first hand every day really shocked me into action. I couldn’t find any books for kids about fitness that I liked, so I decided to create one.
- FBM: How did you get involved in kids’ health and fitness?
- SE: I’ve always loved sports and fitness, so coaching was a natural progression as I began to have fewer opportunities to play competitively. I began working in youth sports during high school and haven’t slowed down since. As I became more interested in fitness and exercise science while attending Boston University, I began transitioning that knowledge and experience to kids that I work with.
- FBM: How are you currently involved with kids?
- SE: Writing Wallie Exercises has given me the incredible opportunity to visit elementary schools across the country. During my visits I normally do a reading, answer questions and engage the kids in a fitness demonstration.
- I also coach four soccer teams in NYC ranging from 10-year-old boys to high school girls. Whenever I get the opportunity, I also volunteer with an amazing program called KEEN, a free exercise and activity program for special needs kids.
- FBM: What are some fun ways to sneak exercise into kids’ lives?
- SE: To be honest, I don’t think kids need to be tricked into exercise. Especially for younger children, being active already is fun. Sometimes it’s more of a challenge for parents to find opportunities to make this available amid hectic schedules. Try carving out a little extra time to bike/walk somewhere instead of driving or turn on some music instead of the TV so they’ll dance instead of sit and snack.
- FBM: Any tips for parents for getting kids interested in exercise and physical activity when they often want to veg out in front of the TV or computer?
- SE: Next time your child does something great, reward them with something fun and active (i.e. family bike ride) instead of TV or video games. By creating active rewards, kids will develop positive associations with physical activity.
- FBM: What do you think are the biggest obstacles to preventing obesity, particularly in kids?
- SE: No matter how hard you try to eat healthy and stay active, our environment can often be the biggest crutch. The availability of processed foods, lack of recreational space, unhealthy habits of children’s friends and thousands of other obstacles present daily challenges in the fight against obesity.
- FBM: What can parents do to help keep their kids at a healthy weight?
- SE: The most important thing is to set a good example. If you have poor nutrition habits and are inactive, there’s a good chance your children will follow. Make a point to show your kids that you subscribe to healthy habits and they’re more likely to buy in.
A big thanks to Steve for sharing his thoughts on active kiddos! Be sure to check out Wallie Exercises—it’s a great addition to any kid’s library. —Erin