Childhood obesity is a rising epidemic and a valid concern for many parents. With the surge in all things electronic from televisions, computers, video games, and hand held devices, we have populations of children being sedentary rather than up, moving, playing, and active. As the economy puts stress on single, as well as two-parent, households the trend in meals has been on things fast, easy, and affordable which unfortunately does not often equate to healthy or nutrient dense. Here are some eye opening facts on childhood obesity taken directly from an article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.1, 2
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.1, 2
- In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.1
- Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.4
- Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.5,6
To combat childhood obesity there are really two main areas to focus on and they are the food your child is eating and the amount of activity your child is getting. Let’s start with food first.
- We all have likes and dislikes when it comes to food but did you know the palette is always changing. Be sure to give your children a variety of tastes and textures. Don’t give up on a healthy food or snack if your child doesn’t initially like it as it can take up to 10 tries to develop a taste or appreciation for something.
- Vegetables really do rule (in addition to fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts) when it comes to healthy eating yet they are highly underutilized in most day to day meals/snacks. Teach your kids about eating a rainbow of colors every day as it is an easy concept to follow which will pack in the vitamins and minerals.
- Grow a garden with your kids. Whether it’s in an earth box, raised bed, or your back yard, it’s amazing to see and help things grow. Not only will your kids appreciate where food actually comes from, but they tend to be open to trying new things when they grow it themselves.
- Cook at home and teach your kids the basics too so healthier choices will be the norm as you control what goes into your meal when you make it yourself. If you have picky eaters, it is easy to process lots of healthy vegetables into tiny bits that can easily be cooked down into sauces, soups or casseroles as a few different ideas. Minimize commercially processed foods that typically come in a box, can or drive in window as often times these are empty calories with little nutritional value.
As a physical therapist, I have a certain appreciation for physical activity. If your child is into team sports then they typically get a lot of this but not everyone enjoys sports so how do you still get the activity in. Let’s review.
- Require some daily outdoor time for your kids. Whether it’s a snowball fight, shoveling, or building a snowman in the winter or playing at the park or in the yard during the summer this is sure to get kids up and moving.
- Focus on fun. Fly a kite, play Frisbee, or use a hula hoop. Also I have yet to meet a child/teen who does not like inflatable jumpy houses or trampolines and it is amazing exercise disguised as fun.
- Break out the bicycles. Whether it is around the neighborhood with friends or a family bike ride on a designated path bicycling is a great activity for any age.
- Consider a child/youth/teen fitness class at your local park, gym, or private facility as they tailor these to many different age groups and skill levels.
- Have family fitness time which might be going to the pool, an afternoon walk/hike or simply blaring some music and dancing around the house.
Different food and activity possibilities are endless and we would love to hear some of your tips/suggestions in the comments below. We can stop childhood obesity in its tracks not only for healthier children today but for healthier adults of tomorrow. Review where you might be able to improve and start implementing some simple changes a little bit at a time. Good luck!
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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.