Obesity is a concerning problem affecting more families now than ever before. In fact, obesity rates have tripled during the past 25 years. It is putting our children’s future at stake.
The reasons for this are complex and involve many interacting factors. Public health experts refer to something called an ‘obesogenic environment’ which can be understood as a multitude of factors that act to discourage exercise and promote consumption of energy rich foods. The result of such an environment is that now 32% of American youth are overweight with half being obese.
It may seem intuitive that increasing physical activity alone would reduce the rate of obesity among our children but multiple scientific papers in recent years have been unable to show an obvious reduction in obesity rates. Beyond continuing to consume large quantities of calories, there are social, physical, and cultural factors that affect how much children engage in physical activity.
Physical activity is important not only to prevent obesity but also in order to prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and increased blood pressure in adulthood. There are also immediate benefits such as stronger bones, better school performance, and a positive effect on children’s’ mental health.
School communities can support children to be active and some states and provinces have mandated 30 minutes of daily activity. This is also advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children may also be supported to be active in the family environment. Children should have at least 90 minutes of physical activity a day; a difficult task to achieve.
Top Tips for parents from Dr. Goldman, MedSchoolForParents Chief Medical Officer :
Serve as a role model – do physical activity.
Choose activities that the entire family can enjoy such as cycling and walking.
- Walk or bike to school or park at a distance from school to walk together to your car.
- Register your kids for after school programs that include physical activity such as dancing.
- Celebrate holidays, family events, birthdays and gatherings in the outdoors, doing physical activity.
- Keep a log of your daily activities or wear a pedometer for a month and document how many steps each one in the family does.