Childhood Obesity is a serious health concern for many children in the United States, which is why September has recently been recognized for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “About 1 in every 5 (17%) children in the United States has obesity and certain groups of children are more affected than others.”
Obesity in children can lead to a variety of health risks and diseases later in life, which is why it is important to take control of your children’s health at a young age. According to the CDC , children who are obese are at higher risk of the following: high blood pressure and cholesterol, impaired glucose tolerance, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma, joint problems, fatty liver disease, gallstones, gastro-esophageal reflex, and more, along with risk for impaired emotional, physical, and social functioning.
There can be many different reasons that children become overweight and obese, but according to an article on WebMD, the most common causes are “genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of these factors.”
The article continues saying, “Children whose parents or brothers or sisters are overweight may be at an increased risk of becoming overweight themselves, but this can be linked to shared family behaviors such as eating and activity habits.” Thus, how active a child is and how much/what kinds of food they eat play a significant role in determining their weight.
Support and encouragement from parents and other friends and family members are also extremely important in helping a child make positive and healthy life choices. The American Heart Association provides practical tips for parents or caretakers for helping children develop healthy habits:
They say, when feeding children:
- “Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products.”
- “Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.”
- “Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.”
- “Serve reasonably sized portions.”
- “Encourage your family to drink lots of water.”
- “Limit sugar-sweetened beverages, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.”
It’s essential for a child’s development to receive proper nutrients and a well-rounded diet. By including a variety of different foods and limiting excess fats and sugars, you can greatly impact your child’s health and physical development.
The American Heart Association offers some examples of “easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats” for 100 calories or less that can replace excess salty, sugary, or fatty treats:
- “A medium-size apple”
- “A medium-size banana”
- “1 cup blueberries”
- “1 cup grapes”
- “1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus”
In addition to eating well, it’s important to encourage your children to be physically active. Swimming and playing sports are great ways for children to exercise while having fun. The YMCA offers a variety of youth sports for children of all ages, along with indoor pools for your children to swim in all year long!
Limiting screen time (TV, video games, cell phones, internet, etc.), and replacing it with playing outdoors or going on walks are just a few ways to get your kids moving. Not to mention, doing activities with your kids can motivate them to participate, as well!
So, as the school year begins this September, find ways to help your children make healthier lifestyle choices and prevent childhood obesity. Raising awareness for this issue is the first step to making a change. The Harrisburg Area YMCA supports healthy eating, physical activity, and child development through a variety of programs and services. In addition to our annual Healthy Kids Day event, we provide ongoing activities and sports for youth to participate in to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle at our East Shore, West Shore, Northern Dauphin, and Camp Curtin YMCA branches. Visit our website or a YMCA Welcome Desk to learn more!
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator