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Ending Childhood Obesity Begins with You

March 6th, 2013

By, Aaron Powers

Childhood obesity is a serious epidemic facing our children today. The American Heart Association and CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that one out of three kids is overweight or obese. That is roughly three times as many overweight or obese children than there were almost 50 years ago. As a result , children today are at more risk to develop heart disease such as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, as well as type II diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, depression and low self-esteem as a result of their weight gain. Not only is this a problem that effects individuals in the childhood years, but it has also been shown that children that are obese are more likely to become obese adults.

ID-10034755-kid runningWhat is the difference between being overweight and being obese? Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Excess body fat is the result of a “positive caloric balance” which means that more calories are consumed than are being expended, therefore resulting in stored energy in the form of fat.

Why such a dramatic increase in the last 50 years? One reason is the ever increasing sedentary lifestyle of the American family. Here are some of the factors that have contributed to this increase:

  • Fewer kids walk to school.
  • Increase in schoolwork leads to less time for activity.
  • Advances in technology have garnered kids attention more than outdoor play.
  • The increase in two income households leaves less time for parents to play with their children and monitor their eating habits.
  • The on-the-go lifestyle of many Americans leads to increased consumption of heavily processed foods that are high in fat and sodium content.
  • There has been an increase in consumption highly processed sugar drinks by children and adolescents.

What can be done to prevent my child from becoming overweight or obese (or to get my kid back on the right track)?

Here are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:

  1. Eat healthy. When grocery shopping choose to buy more fruits and vegetables. Offer fruits and veggies as snacks to your children. Len Saunders of the US News says in his report “Understanding Childhood Obesity” that parents should encourage their kids to eat more veggies by dipping them in low-fat yogurt or pudding, and then slowly ween them off this strategy to where they are only consuming the veggies.
  2. Limit sweetened beverages. Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents from 2-18 years old. This includes sodas and fruit juice as there is little nutritional content compared to the high caloric intake. Instead, try getting your children to drink more water by adding a lemon slice or lemon juice for taste.
  3. Eat together as a family. Eating together as a family not only promotes family bonding but also prevents children and adolescents from eating in front of a TV or computer screen, which promotes fast eating and lowered awareness of how much one is consuming.
  4. Cook your meals. When you cook your own meals you can control what ingredients are used. When you eat out, food is prepared more for taste rather than nutritional value and therefore is often high in fat and calories.
  5. Watch your portions. The increased size of meals, utensils and dinner plates make it easy to overeat. Fill your plate with mostly veggies and a small amount of protein. Avoid getting up for seconds.
  6. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.  For adults, people who get at least seven hours of sleep per night tend to have less body fat than people who don’t.  And kids need even more sleep than adults.

Don’t forget to move!
While nutrition is an extremely vital aspect in reducing childhood obesity, don’t forget about physical activity. While video games are fun and TV is entertaining, parents should limit their kids to no more than 2 hours of screen time per day.

Simply having your child take a brisk 30min walk a day can significantly reduce the chance of your child of becoming obese. However, seeing as how children are reluctant to walk for no reason, physical activity should be made fun in the form of a game such as hide and seek, capture the flag, kickball, or jump rope. Also you want to make sure you do a variety of activities such as swimming, biking, hiking, and playing games so that your child will develop a variety of muscles as well as coordination while keeping activity new and exciting.

Parents are role models
Finally, the most important aspect in helping your children become active and healthy so that they can develop into active and healthy adults is taking care of yourself and modeling healthy behavior. Children often emulate their parents, so if you are active along with them they are more likely to enjoy physical activity and healthy eating habits even into their adult years than if you chose sit on the couch.

AaronP3About the Author
Aaron Powers is part of our coaching staff at hive lifespan. He is a personal and group trainer and also teaches some of our specialty classes at hive. He earned both his BS and MS in Exercise Science from University at Buffalo and is a NY State Licensed Athletic Trainer. Additionally Aaron holds certifications as a NSCA Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Gravity Personal Training Instructor, Power Plate Level I and is a AHA Basic Life Support Instructor.

Sources used to write this article:
Child Obesity Facts by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Understanding Childhood Obesity by Len Saunders
Childhood Obesity by Mayo Clinic
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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