EEHealth shared in its Healthy Driven Blog that in the past 30 years, childhood obesity in the United States has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. Today, it affects more than one in five children and adolescents, making it the most common chronic disease of childhood.
It’s no wonder the battle over childhood obesity has gained national attention, with September declared as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Childhood obesity is caused by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Exposure to unhealthy foods and eating patterns, increased portion size, physical inactivity, socioeconomic status, medications, and other factors contribute to this growing national epidemic.
The consequences of obesity during childhood affect a child’s health and well-being now and later in life. Obese youth have a greater risk of heart disease caused by high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and other serious health issues, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Joint problems
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and heartburn
- Psychological distress (e.g., depression, low self-esteem)
In addition, children who are obese are 70 percent more likely to become obese adults, increasing the risk for health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis.
Helping your child combat obesity is a challenging task for any parent. But it’s one you need to address early before habits set in and your child begins to suffer psychological effects.
With a number of resources available to help you navigate this challenge, you can make this month the month you start helping your child shed those extra pounds for a healthier future. Start here:
- Establish healthy eating habits for your entire family, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, in reasonably-sized portions. Limit sugars, saturated fats, and salty snacks.
- Encourage drinking lots of water. Limit sugary drinks. Opt for freshly-squeezed juices and low-fat milk or non-fat milk instead.
- Ensure your child eats breakfast every morning to reduce hunger later on in the day.
- Help your child stay active by encouraging at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily, such as: brisk walking, playing tag, jump rope, soccer, swimming, dancing, and biking. Exercise as a family so it’s a team effort.
- Limit the amount of time your child spends watching television, playing video games, or surfing the web to no more than 1-2 hours daily.
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness Center at Seven Bridges offers a variety of fitness classes for kids and teens struggling with unhealthy weight. Kids can learn fun ways to stay active and build lifelong healthy lifestyle habits through programs like Cardio Kids, ZUMBA Kids, Sports Conditioning, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, TRX for Teens, and youth aquatics.