Childhood obesity has always been with us, but has more than tripled over the last three decades. The percentage of children (6-11) in the US who were classified as obese rose from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% by 2009. The percentage of adolescents increased by a similar margin, from 5% to 18%.
What is the difference between being overweight and being obese? Simple; overweight is an excess of body weight disproportionate to the person’s age and height, either through fat, muscle, bone, water, or any combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as an excess of body fat.
A Childhood Epidemic
The problem is compounded by caloric imbalance, too few calories being expended for the amount of calories consumed. This may be affected by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Some people blame this uptick in child obesity on video games and other forms of popular recreation that require far less physical participation than the recreational activities of the 60’s and 70’s.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long term effects on a child’s health and well being. The immediate effects include higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease (cholesterol, high blood pressure), as well as diabetes or prediabetes. These children may also develop problems with stigmatization and poor self esteem.
Long term effects include obesity in adulthood, with corresponding risks for heart problems, stroke, and cancer.
Childhood obesity is treatable through the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits, healthy eating, and physical activity. Schools can often play a major role in this area by providing a safe and supportive environment with practices and policies that are designed to support good health and behavior. Many school curriculums also provide opportunities for students to learn about healthy eating and other habits, as well as productive physical activities.
The Curative For Childhood Obesity
The best curative for childhood obesity is to go against the flow, encouraging children to get off video games and other passive forms of recreation and going outside. Running, walking, wrestling, bike riding, swimming, all are easy and fun alternatives that can have beneficial results. By limiting the amount of time that kids spend in front of the TV or the computer, it is possible for a generation to regain its health and vitality, ensuring that we have an upcoming generation with a positive trend towards fitness and improved quality of life.
A growing number of fitness professionals and trainers are also getting involved with childhood obesity, creating programs designed to tackle this problem head on. Consider having your child partner with a fitness professional for a program designed to meet their specific health needs.
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