According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and increased fourfold in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in this country who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. The percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors (that we mostly associate with adults) for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obese adolescents are also more likely to have prediabetes or even diabetes. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems, such as poor self-esteem.
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Healthy lifestyle habits that kids learn at home, school, social media, etc. including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese. For this article, let’s focus on physical activity.
Just a couple of generations ago, kids spent hours playing outside, making up fun games. It was during these fun play sessions that we developed the lifelong skills of fitness and being active for fun. Today it seems we rely on youth sports for daily physical activity. Unfortunately, not all kids have the opportunity to play sports or even want to play sports. Daily play and physical games were once merely an outlet for fun; it is now primarily a prestige and a possible a college scholarship.
If parents are concerned about their kids’ health and want their kids to be active, parents need to be active as well. Parents’ attitudes toward exercise are revealed by the ways they speak and act. “Daddy has to go to the gym to lose weight” or “Mommy has to exercise because she ate cookies yesterday” give the perception of punishment. Therefore, kids see exercise as punishment rather than fun. We should make exercise as something to be enjoyed and embraced as a lifestyle.
Encourage kids to be creative and physical with their play time. Think of the things we did as children: hide and seek, kick the can, tag, race to the end of the block.
For more information about exercise for children and adolescents, call Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.