Overcoming Childhood Obesity

Written By Beth Funari Sims Cert. Personal Trainer Prescription Fitness

Childhood Obesity affects 1 in 6 school-age children, and adolescents in the United States.

As of January 2017 the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) reported that the percentage of children in the US has more than tripled since the 1970s.

In recent years some programs including Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, actionforhealthykids.org, and other school-centric programs have seen some success.

Despite recent declines in the prevalence among preschool-aged children (ages 2-5), obesity amongst all children is still too high.

Clearly this is a serious issue in the US. One that we can’t, and shouldn’t ignore.

What is obesity exactly? Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these.

Most health care professionals use BMI (body mass index) to determine if an individual is overweight or obese. BMI tends to be the most widely used tool for measuring children, and young adults because it takes into account that they are still growing – and growing at various rates dependent on age and sex.

Children with a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile are considered overweight. Children at or above the 95th percentile have obesity.

What are some of the risk factors for obesity?

Genetics & Metabolism : Unfortunately factors we don’t have much control over.

Environment : If a child grows up in an atmosphere where high caloric, nutrient deficient foods are the norm when they open the fridge or cupboard cabinets they are naturally more likely to put on excess weight. There is also more and more evidence that sugary drinks lead to unnecessary weight gain.

Lack of physical activity : The amount of time children spend staring at screens is at an ultimate high. With so many devices to compete with kids are spending less time moving.

Socioeconomic factors : Parents and children with minimal access to fresh produce and other healthful food are more likely to be obese. Further a challenging home-life can make it more difficult for a parent to pay adequate attention to ensuring a child is active enough.

So what can we do? While there is no clear-cut solution to the childhood obesity issues, there are 3 main areas that need attention :

Physical Activity : The CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that this can be broken up into small increments through out the day.

Nutrition : Just like adults, children can use food to cope with emotions. Parents should avoid relying too heavily on food as either a reward or punishment. As they grow caretakers should guide their choices rather than dictate their food consumption. This will help kids make healthier choices. They should also strive to lead by example, and provide healthy options.

Education : Getting kids to understand that actions lead to consequences is important. Helping kids understand the importance of physical activity and smart nutrition can go a long way in combating childhood obesity.