Matthew McConaughey Tells Teens: Just Keep Livin'
Actor and dad Matthew McConaughey helps at-risk youth get healthy and remembers his dad, who taught him to give back. Plus, his new movie, 'Magic Mike.'
It Takes a Village
More than 72 million children age 18 years and younger live in the United States. An astonishing 31.9 million of these kids are in low-income families, with 15.5 million in "poor" families, defined by federal standards as households earning $22,050 or less per year. According to Yumiko Aratani, PhD, senior research associate at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), low-income children need several things to succeed academically, physically, socially, and professionally. Exercise and healthful eating are just a part of the puzzle, she says.
Poor kids need the basics. This means steady, nourishing diets -- plus plenty of structure and TLC. "NCCP's research shows that about one-third of America's children living in poverty lack consistent access to adequate food," Aratani says. But changing unhealthy eating habits isn't enough. "Previous research finds that to become resilient, children need a close relationship to a caring parental figure, plus parenting styles that are warm, structured, and involve high expectations," she says.
Good food and good grades are linked. Aratani says, "Children with healthy diets are less likely to report depression and stress. And exercise is also known to prevent depression and stress and promote self-esteem." In other words, when a kid feels good about himself, he's more likely to care about achievement. Aratani adds that "a combination of healthy eating and exercise can contribute to high school graduation" rates, even among the poorest of teens.
Mentoring works. j.k. livin aims to provide adult guidance to kids who need it most. Aratani points to a recent NCCP study evaluating the effectiveness of youth-development programs: The results emphasized "the importance of a caring adult-youth relationship," she says. "Mentors help establish an identity independent from family ... and can provide guidance and protection." She stresses, however, that it's crucial to create meaningful, sustainable mentor-mentee matches, with mentors undergoing "careful screening, training, and supervision" for effective results.
McConaughey's Fitness Routine
J.k. livin's primary focus is fitness, a topic McConaughey knows a thing or two about -- as anyone who's seen tabloid photos of him frolicking on the beach with his Brazilian-model fiancee, Camila Alves, and their son, Levi, 3, and daughter, Vida, 2, can tell.
He works with a trainer doing plyometrics, a high-intensity regimen that incorporates powerful movements and explosive exercises. But the actor laughingly admits he'll do all sorts of activities to stay fit, "whether that's dancin', hikin', chasin' a pig, catchin' a rooster, or runnin' around following the doggone kids and saying, 'I'm gonna go everywhere they go for an hour and a half.' We've got eight acres [in Austin, where the family is based], so let's head out and go explore! I find myself up in a tree, down in a gully ... you can break a sweat that way, too."
While McConaughey eats loads of fresh vegetables, salads, lean meats, and fish -- "I could eat salmon every night of the week," he says -- he also refuses to obsess about his diet. "I'm not puritanical at all," he insists. "The pleasure of eating something you really love, if you're doing it in moderation, is really good for you." His indulgence food? A cheeseburger. "There's no way I'm feeling guilty about it!"