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HEALTHY LIVING: Childhood obesity, causes and consequences

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels America. Overweight and obesity in childhood are known to have significant impact on both physical and psychological health. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.

Lifestyle preferences and cultural environment play large roles in the rise of obesity. In general, overweight and obesity are assumed to be the results of an increase in caloric and fat intake. On the other hand, there is supporting evidence that excessive sugar intake by soft drink, increased portion size, and steady decline in physical activity have been playing major roles in the rising rates of obesity all around the world. Childhood obesity can profoundly affect children’s physical health, social, and emotional well-being, and self-esteem. It is also associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life experienced by the child.

What can we do to halt this trend? It has to be a team effort in which the parents and other family members participate.  Nutritional education is important to the child and the family.  Unfortunately, the least expensive and most affordable foods are also the highest in fat, sugar, and calories.  Plus, it’s a lot easier to open a sugary soda, popsicle, or snack cake than it is to prepare fresh fruits, vegetables, or cheese for snacks.  Easier, but not good for your child.   Think about it, food is used as a reward and a pacifier.  Food is thought of as a treat rather than fuel.  Parents can and should teach by example.  Find other options for reward besides food.

It’s not just the over eating, it’s the under activity.  What do we allow?  Come home from school and park in front of the TV or computer to play games or watch videos.  Kids need regular intense activity.  Playing out in the yard is a lost art.  There are a lot of options, youth sports, dance classes, or youth fitness programs such as Kids Fit.  Experts recommend 150 to 225 minutes per school week, unfortunately, this rarely happens.

When children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, multiple health benefits accrue.  Regular physical activity builds healthy bones and muscles, improves muscular strength and endurance, reduces the risk for developing chronic disease risk factors, improves self-esteem, and reduces stress and anxiety. Beyond these known health effects, physical activity may also have beneficial influences on academic performance.

Every parent wants the best for their child.  The best for your child is a healthy diet of nutritious foods, regular physical activity, and lots of love and support from their family.  Make it a family project, what about family walks after dinner, a game of catch out in the yard, or biking around the neighborhood?  These small steps not only benefit your child, it benefits the whole family.

Setting good nutrition and fitness habits when they are young will carry over to good habits as an adult.  Stay healthy my friends.

Contact Jody Holton with your questions, comments, or suggestions for future columns at jholton3@gt.rr.com