Childhood Obesity

KidsHealth.org

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.


Obese children are at risk for a number of conditions, including:
  • High cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Early heart disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Bone problems.
  • Skin conditions such as heat rash, fungal infections, and acne.

Kids need to take risks

Published: 6:31AM Sunday January 26, 2014 Source: Fairfax

School ditches rules and loses bullies

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don't cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

 "We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over." 

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

"When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult's perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don't."

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

But this wasn't a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

 "The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it's more dangerous in the long-run."

Society's obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. "You can't teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn't develop by watching TV, they have to get out there."
 

The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

"There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring."

When researchers - inspired by their own risk-taking childhoods - decided to give children the freedom to create their own play, principals shook their heads but eventually four Dunedin schools and four West Auckland schools agreed to take on the challenge, including Swanson Primary School.

It was expected the children would be more active, but researchers were amazed by all the behavioural pay-offs. The final results of the study will be collated this year.

Schofield urged other schools to embrace risk-taking. "It's a no brainer. As far as implementation, it's a zero-cost game in most cases. All you are doing is abandoning rules," he said.

 Paintball has 2 Common Sense Safety Rules and a whole day of fun & risk taking at one's own level of play.