Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2008
The percentage of overweight children in the United States (and Canada) is growing at an alarming rate — 1 out of 3 kids are now considered overweight or obese.
Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console. And today's busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals, day in and day out. From fast food to electronics, quick and easy seems to be the mindset of many people in the new millennium.
Many kids don't get enough physical activity. Although physical education (PE) in schools can help kids get up and moving, more and more schools are eliminating PE programs or cutting down the time spent on fitness-building activities. One study showed that gym classes offered third-graders just 25 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
Current guidelines recommend that kids over 2 years of age should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.
Preventing Overweight and Obesity
The key to keeping kids of all ages at a healthy weight is taking a whole-family approach. It's the "practice what you preach" mentality. Make healthy eating and exercise a family affair. Get your kids involved by letting them help you plan and prepare healthy meals, and take them along when you go grocery shopping so they can learn how to make good food choices.
Here are some additional recommendations for kids of all ages:
•Birth to age 1: In addition to its many health benefits, breastfeeding may help prevent excessive weight gain. Though the exact mechanism is not known, breastfed babies may be more able to control their own intake and follow their own internal hunger cues.
•Ages 2 to 6: Start good habits early. Help shape food preferences by offering a variety of healthy foods. Encourage kids' natural tendency to be active and help them build on developing skills.
•Ages 7 to 12: Encourage kids to be physically active every day, whether it's an organized sports team or a pick-up game of soccer during recess. Keep your kids active at home, too, through everyday activities like walking and playing in the yard. Let them be more involved in making good food choices, such as packing lunch.
•Ages 13 to 17: Teens like fast food, but try to steer them toward healthier choices like grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, and smaller sizes. Teach them how to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. Encourage teens to be active every day.
•All ages: Cut down on TV, computer, and video game time and discourage eating while watching the tube. Serve a variety of healthy foods and eat meals together as often as possible. Encourage kids to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, limit sugar-sweetened beverages, and eat breakfast every day.
If you eat well, exercise regularly, and incorporate healthy habits into your family's daily life, you're modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids that will last. Talk to your kids about the importance of eating well and being active, but make it a family affair that will become second nature for everyone.
Most of all, let your kids know you love them — no matter what their weight — and that you want to help them be happy and healthy.
- High cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- Early heart disease.
- Bone problems.
- Skin conditions such as heat rash, fungal infections, and acne.