The problem of overweight and obesity has become a national public health concern. Conditions associated with physical inactivity and poor nutrition may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. These conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few. Recently, several government initiatives such as the President’s HealthierUS (www.healthierus.gov) Initiative and Health and Human Services’ Steps to a HealthierUS, have worked to promote improved health for Americans.
As the rate of overweight and obesity soars, American children have not been spared. Children in the United States are heavier than ever before. Since the 1970s, the percentage of children and adolescents who are considered overweight has more than doubled. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), approximately 15 percent of children and adolescents are now overweight.
The long-term health consequences associated with being overweight can begin in childhood or adolescence, which puts overweight children and adolescents at increased risk for various chronic diseases earlier in life. Overweight and obesity can also impact a child’s social competence, emotional well-being, and self-esteem. Since inactive children are more likely to become overweight and then progress to battle obesity as adults, it is key to help children develop healthy habits while young.
You can help improve your children’s health by encouraging them to increase their physical activity.
Regular physical activity is one of the ways to help prevent the development of chronic illnesses. Being physically active has many other benefits as well including:
- Builds self esteem
- Reduces stressors including feelings of depression, anxiety, and inadequacy
- Helps develop and maintain healthy bones
- Increases muscle mass which is crucial to the body’s efficient metabolism
- Teaches positive healthy habits
- Teaches self-discipline and teamwork
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), children should participate in the following physical activity each day:
- At least 60 minutes of active play; however several hours is even better.
- A variety of non-competitive activities at varying levels of intensity.
- At least 10 to 15 minutes of vigorous exercise.
If possible, try and lead by example. As their role model, you can be most effective if your children see you exercise regularly. It is even better if you can find time to exercise with them. But remember to make it FUN!
Try to limit the amount of time children spend watching television, video, and computer games. Use family time to schedule active fun and try to participate in any the following activities if you are able:
- Jump rope/double-dutch
- Hop Scotch
- Dodge Ball
- Volley Ball
Regular physical activity coupled with a good diet will help your kids grow up to be strong and healthy adults. Not to mention how much fun you will have gathering as a family to play!
Remember: It is important to consult a physician before starting any new physical activity.
For more information on physical activity and the health of young people, please log on to www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/PhysicalActivity/index.htm.