By: Victoria Northington
Christopher Newport University Senior | Biology Major
Many times, when we talk about diet and exercise, the conversation is targeted towards adults. However, with all the McDonalds, Burger King, and Chick-fil-a ads that are running during daytime television, we may need to be talking to children and adolescents as well. Parents often say, “oh that’s just baby weight, they will lose it as they age.” Sorry to break it to you but that NOT baby weight anymore. It is Wendy’s 4 for 4 weight and the only way for it to go away is a little movement. In this new age of technology, kids are more likely to sit inside and play video games for 1-4 hours uninterrupted! It is obvious that children need to get out there and exercise just as much as the adults do.
Child obesity is a serious problem here in the United States. Between the years of 2011-2014, the CDC determined that 8.9% of children between the ages of 2-5, 17.5% of children between the ages of 6-11, and 20.5% of 12-19 year olds were obese (Department, 2017).
Those statistics are baffling. What are we doing to help these children out? It is important that parents are being proactive so they can set their child up for a long and healthy lifestyle. By not paying attention, children can develop a multitude of health problems. These health issues include “Insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis” (Li, 2006). 80% of obese children and adolescents carry their sedentary behavior and health problems into adulthood. To fix the problem, we must go back to the basics, what factors in everyday life are contributing to obesity?
Factors Contributing to Obesity
It is not always problems with impulse control that causes childhood obesity. Some children do develop medical conditions that require medicine that results in substantial weight gain. 1 to 2% of children have genetic conditions, such as Down, Prader-Willi, or Bardet-Biedle syndrome that contribute to their obesity (Li, 2006). In cases like these, it is hard to control weight gain and weight loss. Therefore, small daily exercise for 45-60 minutes can help with overall daily function, health, and brain function.
Heritability is always a question as well when it comes to weight gain. Geneticists have determined that heritability plays a role in 25% of cases, but is not the leading factor in this epidemic. Children who have overweight relatives are also more likely to be unhealthy. This occurs in 80% of cases. It’s hard for kids to be healthy when all they see around them is sedentary behavior. Large quantities of fast food have also been normalized and families have started eating this fat filled foods for all 3 meals. Sadly, this is one of the leading causes in childhood obesity. All I can say is monkey see monkey do. If a parent is not eating healthy and not engaging in physical activity, your child or adolescent most likely will not be either.
The biggest hurdle to jump would be to start changing your child’s day to day activities. Here are some recommendations on how to begin attacking the problem.
1 - Recognize the problem
Not every child is the same. It is important that you are attentive to your child’s weight. Without paying attention, your child can develop health issues that can progress into their adult lives.
2 - Have the entire family become involved in physical activity
Once you recognize the problem, it is time to get active. Children often look to parents and others for guidance. In this case, the family and other adults must lead by example. Something as simple as playing baseball in the park or going for a walk to help substantially over time.
3 - Limit sedentary behavior
I know it may be difficult with all the Xbox’s and PS4 games but you MUST pull them away. There is nothing wrong with indulging for an hour or so. But when your child is approaching on 3 to 4 hours, it has been way too long. Possibly a reward system would work best. 1 hour of outside physical activity = 1 hour of video games/ television watching.
4 - Encourage daily activities in recreational sports
Recreational sports in school or out of school are a great way for kids and adolescents to get in their daily exercise since practices often last for more than one hour.
* (Pradiunk et. al, 2011)
Like I said before, getting over the hurdle of reorganization is the hardest part. But it is important to think about the long-term effects. Obesity, in adults, can put people at high risk for developing coronary artery disease. This is the leading cause of death in America. We must help to lower our obesity rates of the country, and we can start by looking at the children.
Department, U. (2017, April 10). Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
Li, S. (2006, May 01). Active Healthy Living: Prevention of Childhood Obesity Through Increased Physical Activity. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/5/1834
Pradinuk, M., Chanoine, J., & Goldman, R. D. (2011, July). Obesity and physical activity in children. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135442/
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