Exercise and Diet: Keeping Our Kids Healthy
We often hear about childhood obesity in the news, but in recent years it has become an even more serious issue. On average, roughly 17% of our nation’s children are classified as obese. People are technically considered obese when their weight reaches a degree that becomes a threat to their health. In most cases, children who are obese are very likely to continue being obese as they grow into adulthood. Understanding the risks of childhood obesity and how to address the issue are vital steps in changing the way our children eat, think, and exercise.
The Importance of a Proper Diet
An uncontrolled diet is one of the main contributing factors that affect obesity. The popularity and accessibility of foods that are excessively fatty, sugary, or salty, as well as pre-packaged and processed makes it easy for people to eat unhealthy. Children require a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean meats. Teaching children healthy eating habits at a young age will likely have a positive effect on their overall lifestyle and food choices as adults. Consuming fresh, healthy foods also ensure that young, growing bodies have the nutrients needed for healthy growth and development.
- Reducing and Substituting Sugary Snacks (PDF)
- Food Requirements for Children
- Resources on Proper Nutrition for Kids
Compared to children raised in earlier decades, the average childhood today is marked by a much lower percentage of physical activity. Exercise not only helps to maintain a healthy weight level, but also improves strength, agility, and coordination. Apart from the physical effects, exercise helps on a psychological level as well, improving confidence and happiness. Children who are encouraged to participate in plenty of physical activity from a young age are more likely to continue through their adulthood and willingly maintain a healthy, active lifestyle on their own. Teaching children and young adults about the importance of exercise should be fun; outdoor games, team sports, etc. can be a great way for kids to get the exercise and interaction needed.
- The Importance of Physical Activity for Kids
- How Much Exercise Does Your Child Need? (PDF)
- Physical Activity Guidelines and Suggestions (PDF)
Games and Activities
There are many sports and activities that kids can participate in for physical exercise. Some popular organized sports include soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and swimming. Even if children do not play a sport, they can still exercise by biking, running, or rollerblading. Encourage them to head outside and play with other kids in the neighborhood. However, do be sure that your child receives appropriate supervision at all times and wears protective gear to prevent injuries.
TV, Games, and Computers
Technology has many benefits, but when it comes to an active lifestyle, television, computers, and video games, often create sedentary distractions for kids. Most of today’s children spent a large amount of their free time indoors, in front of a screen; this limits their physical activity, and is a factor in child obesity. Parents can cope with it by setting daily limits on the amount of time kids can spend in front of a screen. Instead of leaving access freely available all the time, let kids watch TV or play a video game as a treat once in a while.
- TV and Computer Effects on Child Obesity
- Reducing Screen Time for Kids
- Screen Time Linked to Unhealthy Lifestyles
- Controlling Kids’ Screen Time Use
In the United States, the overall rate of childhood obesity has tripled since the 1980s. In some cases, minorities and low-income children are more likely to be obese, due to the accessibility of prepared foods with higher sodium and fat contents. Comparing a map of the U.S. shows that on average, childhood obesity is far more prevalent in the southern and eastern states. This is most attributable to lifestyle and eating habits.
- Facts on U.S. Child Obesity Rates
- An Overall Look at Childhood Obesity in the U.S.
- U.S. Minority Groups and Child Obesity
To learn more about child obesity, have a look through the informative resources below. You can find more information about obesity in general, as well as tips on preventing it and helping children to be healthy.
- A General Guide to Obesity, Causes, and Treatments
- State Legislations Addressing Child Obesity
- How Parents Can Set a Healthy Lifestyle Example for Kids
- Childhood Obesity Awareness Month