September 16, 2016
Childhood obesity is a complex and serious medical issue that is currently affecting 17% of children 2-19 years old. It occurs when a child is significantly above (>95th percentile) the average weight range for the child’s age and height. Obesity significantly increases the risk for both physical and psychological health issues. It is caused by a combination of genetics and behavioral factors.
The fact that 1 in 6 adolescents are categorized as obese is alarming in itself, but the issues associated with this may be of even more concern:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) due to high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Breathing issues, such as asthma
- Increased joint problems
- Psychological problems such as depression
- Low self-esteem
- Also, childhood obesity often leads to adulthood obesity (with associated risk factors becoming more severe in adulthood as well)
Although genetics can play a role in obesity, lifestyle – including diet and exercise – plays a significant role as well. Diet and exercise need to be properly balanced to prevent excess weight gain in children. Many children now prefer more sedentary activities, such as video games, which do not provide adequate daily physical activity. When a minimal amount of physical activity is combined with larger amount calorie consumption, obesity is often the result.
Environmental and community factors can impact diet and exercise patterns:
- Unhealthy food options are advertised much more frequently in comparison to healthy food options within school environments
- Limited access to affordable, healthy options for groceries
- Increasing portion sizes
- Lack of safe public places, such as parks, for kids to freely play and be active
How can we help?
Although we may not be able to impact genetics or community factors, there is still a lot that can be done to help prevent this epidemic from growing!
- SET THE EXAMPLE! Kids are always looking up to adults to set the tone. By choosing healthier food options and participating in regular physical activity, you are showing them the right habits to create.
- HYDRATE! Children should drink water daily and more often than sugary juices and sodas.
- HEALTHY LIFESTYLE FOR EVERYONE! Children that are suffering from self-esteem issues or even potentially bullying at school do not want to be singled out in their home environment. Parents should make healthy food options and regular exercise a non-negotiable for every member of the household.
- MOVE! Simply planning activities for the family to do at home or in the community that involves physical activity give children an outlet to participate in physical activity without seeing it as a chore.
- MAKE IT FUN! Cook together as a family to make meal time more of a social activity and decrease screen time by engaging children in a physical task.