Childhood obesity is an increasingly serious health problem in the United States. Nearly one in five children and adolescents are affected, putting many at risk for negative health outcomes. Obesity-related conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, and joint problems.
Obesity is complex and there are many factors that can contribute to excess weight gain. School and child environments can play a significant role. In addition, access to healthy and affordable foods and beverages, safe and convenient places for physical activity, and neighborhood design can all impact risk of gaining weight and obesity. Genetics and certain medications can also heavily impact childhood obesity.
Parents and caregivers however can have a powerful impact on helping children and adolescents maintain a healthy weight. Here are some tips from the CDC.
Be Active as a Family
Physically active youth have stronger muscles and bones, better cardiovascular fitness, and lower body fat than those who are inactive. Planning family activities including riding bikes, walking pets or playing sports together can increase activity levels. Active chores like washing the car, raking leaves or vacuuming can also be beneficial.
Set Consistent Sleep Routines
A good sleep schedule has many health benefits including helping prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, and problems with attention and behavior. Researchers are still trying to learn how sleep is linked to weight gain.
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends and holidays, can improve sleep.
Monitor Screen Time
Excessive screen time can have a negative impact on child and adolescent health. It can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school and poor mental health. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities. One way of helping with this is by not allowing any screen time during meals. You can also reduce screen time by turning screens off an hour before bed and removing screens from children’s bedrooms.
Childhood obesity is a very serious problem that can have lifelong negative impacts on health. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, talk with their health care provider. They can assess the health risks related to excess weight. At FHCSD, we offer a Healthy Together pediatric weight management program and the Healthy Habits, Healthy Kids health education classes, both of which can be accessed by a referral from your child’s pediatric provider.