Did you know about one in three American children and teens is either overweight or suffering from childhood obesity? And they are experiencing diseases that are usually only seen in adults, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. With about 80% of obese children becoming obese adults and facing life-threatening diseases, childhood obesity is a serious matter with grave consequences. It’s time for community leaders, educators and parents to take a stand and fight for the health of our children.
Obese children are bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression and lower self-esteem.
What Causes Childhood Obesity?
Many factors contribute to childhood obesity, including:
- Metabolism (how your body changes food and oxygen into energy it can use)
- Short sleep duration
- Eating and physical activity behaviors
While genetics and metabolism are difficult factors to control, other factors such as diet and exercise can be changed for the better. Taking charge of your child’s physical activity can be a healthy step in the right direction. Read on for some important exercise suggestions for children.
Physical Activity Tips for Children
According to the American Heart Association, children over the age of 2 and teens should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.
Promoting an Active Lifestyle
You can’t force children to become active, but you can definitely do things to encourage physical activity.
- Enroll them in a fun activity, such as karate or ballet lessons. Let them choose an activity that interests them.
- Reduce the amount of time they are allowed to watch TV and play video games per day.
- Be a role model by exposing your children to your own active lifestyle.
- Engage in physical activities with your children, such as walking the dog every night, raking leaves or clearing snow.
- Provide toys that promote activity, such as a skipping rope, basketball or kite.
It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable and that offer variety.
You can get your child excited about being active by suggesting some of these fun activities:
Children under 8:
- Playing at the local playground
- Taking pets for a walk
- Playing “Hide and Seek” or “Tag”
Children over 8:
- Playing competitive sports such as soccer or basketball
- Playing outside with friends
- Riding a bike
- Taking pets for a walk
Try setting specific physical activity goals and rewarding your child for achieving those goals. Rewards could include “earned” computer time or a family outing of your child’s choosing. Never use food as a reward.
Children will only stay active with the encouragement of their role models. That’s why family and community engagement in physical activity is vital. Parents, school staff and community members must work together to increase opportunities for physical activity before, during and after the school day to improve the development and overall health of children and adolescents.
For more information on various Health and Wellness products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Managing Childhood Obesity.