Childhood Obesity – No more excuses
Whether you are a parent, a teacher or simply a neighbor to young children, we as a society need to end childhood obesity. No more excuses. No more wasted time. We need to act now. Knowledge is our greatest asset in this fight against childhood obesity. As adults, we are responsible for providing a healthy future for our youth. It is our duty to make good choices on their behalf and to assist them in building the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Let’s start by taking a look at the facts. Then we’ll look at ways to keep our youth moving. Knowledge is power.
Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, water, muscle, bone or any combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
The hard facts are disturbing, but shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look around your community. Childhood obesity is a serious concern to our future as a nation. Children who are obese face immediate health risks that can cause long term health effects. So even if you are not directly affected by this concern, you should be. The cost for treatment of these conditions may bankrupt our health care system.
Obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease. 70% of obese youth age 5-17 had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. These same children are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. In addition, obese youth are at a greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological
problems such as stigmatization and poor self esteem. Children who are obese are also more likely to be obese adults and therefore more at risk for health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer.
As a concerned parent or community member we can prevent most of these conditions by creating healthy lifestyle habits. Genetics play a role in some cases, but getting up and getting out is our best prevention. Ask yourself, when was the last time my child or neighborhood kid played outside till dusk? It rarely happens anymore. Gone are the days of running around, catching fireflies, and adventuring till dark. Safety seems to be a greater concern more than it was 30 years ago, but handheld electronics, computers and TV gaming are equally to blame for sedentary children.
Children need to be physically active. Regular physical exercise helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles. It also helps prevent the health concerns mentioned earlier. Physical activity also reduces the feelings of depression and anxiety. Creating a more focused mind and promoting a sense of psychological well being.
It’s simple. A healthy lifestyle is a choice. You would not allow your child, niece/nephew or neighbor child to cross the street if a car was approaching. Nor would you choose to send that same child to school with a temperature. Choose to be healthy. Choose to live a long, prosperous life. It’s contagious and it starts now.
Get outside and get moving. Grab the bikes, go for a hike, skip to the lou my darling…just get moving. Parents, neighbors, aunts and uncles – we need to tip the “caloric scale” in the opposite direction. Since children rely on our knowledge, we need to take back control. We need to increase their calories expended versus their calories consumed. To do that, we need to involve them in more physical activities. It is an easy concept, but needs to be made fun for children to stay engaged. Below are a few examples of some simple activities with a fun twist:
(1) Make it an adventure. Set the alarm. Rise before dawn and drive to a hiking trail. Strap on the headlamps and listen to the sounds of nature. If that’s too adventurous for your youth, then…
(2) Simply hike after dawn and make a scavenger hunt list. Kids love to hunt for and find things. Need more incentive, give a token prize for the winning child or team.
(3) Ride the bikes to a local park for
some free play time. Invite some playmates to meet you.
(4) Create a kids “boot camp” in your backyard. Make an obstacle course with stuff from around the house. Kids love to crawl and tunnel through things and jump and climb on obstacles. Keep it fun and safe.
(5) Go for a run on the hard sand at the beach. Keep an eye out for dolphins or whales. Play “I spy” for other ocean animals, birds, seashells or silly sunbathers.
(6) Keep it simple. Jump rope and play the name game or a good old fashioned game of freeze tag. Kids love to run.
For more information and ideas to get moving, please visit www.ericagratton.com/about
For information on creating and maintaining a healthy diet, please visit www.choosemyplate.gov
Statistics provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-NPAO-Obesity Facts