The number of American children who are obese has increased substantially from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008.
This is a worrying trend because children who are overweight are more likely to suffer from conditions such as high blood pressure, high "bad" cholesterol, pre-diabetes, joint problems and sleep apnea (pauses in breathing while sleeping).
If they remain obese as adults, they are also more likely to have heart disease, strokes and they are at greater risk of a variety of different cancers.
That is why it is important to get kids active and current guidelines suggest that children and teens should be partaking in one hour of physical activity every day.
1. Turn off the TV, games console and computer. The fact that kids now spend a lot of their leisure time sitting down may be a reason why they are gaining weight. You don’t have to ban them outright as it would only cause resentment, but keep all electronics in the main living area and put time limits on the amount of time your child is allowed to use them.
2. If your child is completely glued to games consoles, as many children are, encourage him to play games that involve physical activity such as dancing games or sports games that require you to act out the motions of playing the sport.
3. If your child loves the TV, you could buy a children’s yoga or aerobic s DVD so he can watch TV and exercise at the same time.
4. Enroll your child in a youth club. Sports are usually played here. You could also buy everyone a bike and go on family cycling rides on a regular basis, or enrol at swimming classes. If you pick something you think he might like, he is more likely to see it as a hobby rather than a chore.
5. Make sure he earns his computer time by having a certain amount of time playing outdoors first.
6. If it is possible, walk or cycle with him to school instead of taking the car or going on the school bus.
7. Even toddlers can be encouraged to get more exercise. Try chasing your toddler around the house. He’ll think it’s hilarious and it will burn off all that extra energy! You could also take him to a toddler activity group (some have climbing frames and trampolines) or to a tot’s soccer class.
8. Take your child to the playground a few times a week.
9. When shopping, take the bus. You will both have to walk to the bus stops and will get more exercise than if you went by car.
10. Buy the kids some chalk so they can play games like hopscotch in your back yard.
Childhood Obesity Facts, CDC. Web. 31 December 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm
How much physical activity do children need? CDC. Web. 31 December 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, as well as being a mother of five children ranging in age from 4 to 15.
Reviewed January 2, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith