Heading off the Childhood Obesity Crisis
Children who are overweight have an increased likelihood of being overweight adults
Scary as it may be: 1 in 10 preschoolers is overweight, according to the American Heart Association (2005). In 2002 the Utah Department reported an estimated 25.5% of Kindergarten-Eighth graders as being overweight or at risk of being overweight. In Utah Public High Schools approximately 36,500 high school students are or at risk of being overweight with boys twice the rate of girls.
Why be concerned? Children who are overweight have an increased likelihood of being overweight adults. Being overweight increases the risk of having elevated blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and poor self esteem. According to the Baylor College of Medicine; for the first time in over 100 years the life expectancy of children today is shorter than their parents because of the obesity epidemic.
National Standards for Toddlers & Preschoolers
In 2002, the National Association of Sports and Physical Education took the initiative to publish activity guidelines for toddlers and preschoolers. The guideline recommends 30 minutes daily of structured physical activity for Toddlers (18 months-3 year olds) and 60 minutes daily for preschoolers (3-5 year olds). This is in addition regular unstructured play like playground activities.
How do we prevent our kids from becoming overweight? It is a team effort between preschools and daycares, schools, parents, health care professionals, and professional fitness organizations. More preventive education and programming is needed in order to head off this growing epidemic.
Here are some simple actions we can all take:
- Be an active family; parents are key role models for their children
- Enroll children in a variety of fitness programs starting as early as toddlers. Make sure programming is safe, developmentally appropriate, facilitated by credentialed staff, and fun!
- Choose schools that offer both structured and unstructured play every day; along with cognitive education.
- Plan family meals, enjoy the conversation and encourage everyone to try a variety of food from each food group; limit portions to the size of each person's fist.
- Avoid fast foods and sugary drinks except for occasional treats
- Drink lots of water as a family (8 glasses a day for everyone).
- Limit television, video, and computer games to no more than 2 hours per day
- The first five years of life are critical in your child's development; make sure a healthy lifestyle is on your family's priority list. The habits we start with children in their formative years impact their health for a lifetime to come. Health is a gift to be protected for our young; if lost it is so difficult to regain. If you doubt this; ask someone who has struggled with their weight since they were a child.