By Sam Taylor
The issue of childhood obesity in the United States is an epidemic large and grave, and yet completely avoidable. For years we’ve heard doctors warn the public about weight issues, we’ve heard comedians make jokes about the weight issues surrounding our country, and we’ve done nothing, it seems, but expand.
The “Aha!” moment for me was when I read the statistics from a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. The statistics stated that 32% of American schoolchildren are either overweight or obese! That’s almost one third of our children suffering from an avoidable condition!
This is the largest our children have ever been. In 1980, 6.5 percent of American children age 6 to 11 were obese. Fast forward to 1994 and that number grew to 11.3 percent and in 2002 it expanded to 17 percent. In a generation our obesity rate has nearly tripled.
Childhood obesity is not like teenage acne that you’ll outgrow, it SETS THE TONE for their adult life. The health problems that occur with obesity are staggering. Children who are severely overweight increase the possiblity of getting type-2 or “non-insulin-dependent” diabetes. Other issues that obese children may face are:
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Joint damage and other orthopaedic issues
- Sleep apnea
- Poor self-esteem
It is absolutely unacceptable that our country, or any country, should face this problem. How can we have these problems when we have not only access to exercise facilities and healthy food , but the information needed to make the right choices? The good news is that this is a fixable problem. With the right diet and proper exercises, childhood obesity can not only be addressed from a preventative standpoint, but can be remediated for those children already suffering. Please make sure that you consult your physician or doctor before starting a new nutrition and or exercise plan.
- Avoid restaurants that serve high fat meals. The adages “You are what you eat” and “You get what you pay for” are true for our children as well. There is a reason that fast food chains can offer food for cheap…you’re getting low quality food. The animals that are used are raised on a diet of cheap grain. If you enjoy your meats, buy organic. The ingredients the animals eat are the ingredients you eat.
- Try to have unprocessed foods. The more a food has been processed, the more nutrients have been removed. Raw fruits and vegetables are great snacks, simply cut up or juiced.
- Monitor the type of snacks you are eating. My brothers and I used to spend our summers with our grandfather. If we were hungry between meals he would point to the fruit bowl. He said if you’re truly hungry you’ll eat the fruit, if not, you’re not that hungry. I didn’t really like that answer at the time, but of course, he was right.
- Push fruits that have vitamin B. it’s a great energy booster. Dark fruits like blueberries and blackberries are nutrious, full of antioxidants.
- Add healthy oils to your diet. Olive oil is a great oil for making dressings. It loses some integrity when you cook with it, but is a better than most alternatives.
- Try cooking with coconut oil. Yes it is high in fat, but it’s a fat your body needs. Coconut oil is used in the Philipines which has much lower cholesterol levels than the United States.
- Walking is a great exercise that can be done most anywhere at any age, and is free. Start slow at first and build up endurance. After awhile increase your speed and duration. For a greater challenge, try walking up and down hills. Walk trails if you have the chance. The trails provide an element of instability that will force multiple muscles to work to help achieve balance, and will be more interesting, often, for young children. It’s like walking on cobblestone streets, challenging, but a good workout. If possible or practical, walk instead of driving for short errands. Get in the habit of using their feet.
- Playing outside seems to be a lost art. Get outside and play games like tag, soccer, basketball or swimming. Getting outside and moving around for 30-60 minutes a day makes a significant difference in overall fitness and metabolic rate, and gets their heart rates up.
- Rowing is a great low impact, full body workout. You can get a great cardiovascular workout in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a great way to mix things up for younger exercisers too…the machine is interesting to watch work. The same idea would apply to cross-trainers, exercise bikes, and the like. Always be sure a machine is usable for a child’s size. Some small children should not be near exercise machinery.
- The Ballistic Ball Workout is a great way to strengthen all of the muscles in the body while simultaneously working your cardiovascular system. You’ll need to use smaller gym balls for most kids, though not all. The BBW works great for youth, with or without dynamic training bells. The bells, if you decide to use them, should be matched to your size. You do not want to struggle to lift the bells, but to move at the highest rate of speed possible without breaking form.
Sport Science Lab believes that children can be healthy, active and happy, as well as injury-free, using simple advice about nutrition and movement. Childhood obesity is something no child should have to worry about or suffer the effects absent a medical issue. Put a little extra effort into getting moving, and save yourself from everything from discomfort to serious medical issues down the road.
- cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overwght99.htm National Center for Health Statistics-Prevalence of Overweight Among Children and Adolesents: United States, 1999-2002.
- cdc.gov/heathyyouth.com Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-The Obesity Epidemic and United States Students
- nytimes.com/2008/05/28/health/research/28obesity.html The New York Times-Hint of Hope as Child Obesity Rate Hits Plateau.