By Jacob Gerdes, Arizona State Nutrition Communications Student
Children are growing up in a time where they are given more and more opportunity to play with different technological outlets. Certainly, it’s important for children to understand how to use technology as they are growing up, but, they need to balance this with physical activity. A recent study (April 5, 2016) conducted by Tufts University shows that only about 15% of children within the study participated in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day and 8% achieve the recommended 30 minutes of school-based physical activity. These numbers are incredibly low and paired with a diet of calorie-dense foods; our society has created the perfect recipe for overweight children.
Healthy diet and exercise are both crucial elements for children to maintain a healthy weight, but toady we will look into the childhood obesity crisis as well as opportunities where we can increase the amount of exercise children receive, and the many different ways this can happen.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated childhood obesity is now considered a global health crisis that affects developing counties. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has managed to reduce the percentage of obese children, within the age range of 2 to 5, from 13.9% to 8.4%. However, compared with the age range of 2 to 19 years of age, 17.9 % are still considered obese. Nearly 1/5 of our entire youth population is at risk for weight-related health issues.
Obese youth have a higher likelihood of continuing on to become obese adults. The U.S. Government’s Let’s Move foundation list the possible health risks along with one other overlooked weight-related issue including:
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Sleep Apnea
- Social Discrimination
While the first 4 possible results should not be overlooked, social discrimination is often not considered. Let’s Move notes obese children suffer from social discrimination; which negatively affects their academics and hinders their social functioning. It also may be carried into adulthood. This past November, a study published in the Journal of Internal Obesity set out to measure the perceived exercise capability of children and discovered that obese children are less likely to feel capable of exercise. The issue of childhood obesity has many different effects but there is a way to combat this growing issue.
Get Your Children Moving!
I spent a majority of my childhood in a rural part of Virginia in a time when the technology for leisure was still limited. For fun, we would explore the forest and play outside till the sunlight no longer guided our way. These days, children have many more options that will keep them inside and sedentary. After hearing about all the issues related to childhood obesity, we must figure out a way to get children to move more. The prevention of obesity ultimately lies in the idea that we need children to expend more energy then they consume, and exercise is a great way to balance energy consumption versus energy expenditure. The options for accomplishing this are endless and can even give the whole family an opportunity to exercise a little more.
The following list can help you with ways to keep your children active.
- Find a sport that your child enjoys playing.
- Encourage them to join a competitive team. Competitive sports can introduce your children to useful skills like adaptability, teamwork, decision-making, and the concept of continuously practicing to become more advanced at a trade. Youth sports can range from highly competitive to less intense recreational leagues; both being great options.
- Participate in sports as a family. Sports are a great way to increase a child’s social skills while getting them to exercise. If your child finds that competitive sports are not quite for them, there are plenty of other options that may be more appropriate.
- Go on family hikes. You can spend time with your child by traveling to state parks and hiking different trails.
- Join various outdoor groups. There are plenty of outdoor groups that can teach your children other helpful skills such as wilderness survival techniques.
- Be creative with activities. Walking the dog, riding a bike, playing at a park with friends, and using their imagination to pretend they are their favorite super heroes are classic ways as well.
There are many different ways to get your children to move. You can make them as expensive or as cheap as you want, but either way, consistently having your children exercise is highly important to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.
1. Hubbard K, et al.. Few children get 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily. Tufts University Health Sciences Campus. Published April 5, 2016. ScienceDaily. Accessed April 21, 2016. URL: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160405122618.htm.
2. Lorenzetti L. Child Obesity Is Now A Global Crisis. Fortune Magazine Website. Published January 25, 2016. Accessed April 21, 2016. URL: http://fortune.com/2016/01/25/child-obesity-global-crisis/.
3. CDC. Childhood Obesity Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Website. Last updated June 19, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2016. URL: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html.
4. Let’s Move!. Health Problems and Childhood Obesity. Let’s Move Website. Accessed April 21, 2016. URL: http://www.letsmove.gov/health-problems-and-childhood-obesity.
5. Taylor MJ, et al.. Measuring perceived exercise capability and investigating its relationship with childhood obesity: a feasibility study. International Journal of Obesity. Published November 3, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2016. URL: http://www.nature.com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/ijo/journal/v40/n1/abs/ijo2015210a.html