JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA –
As the new school year begins many summer activities are coming to an end. The pools will soon close and the numerous hours of free time will also end. Students now will spend a significant portion of their day in the classroom seated at a desk exercising their brains. It is important during these long school days that there is a focus on activity and healthy eating habits to help tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Childhood Obesity Facts, 2014), 17% of children in the United States between the ages of two and 17 are obese. Obesity significantly impacts a child’s growing body. Obese children are at risk for developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol which puts them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood. They also have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and joint pain. Additionally, obese children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems to include low self-esteem (Basics about Childhood Obesity, 2012).
There are many ways to prevent childhood obesity beginning with both healthy eating and physical exercise. It is recommended children get at least one hour of physical activity a day. This exercise can take place during recess or school gym class but can also occur once they get home from school. Sporting events are another great way to get exercise. Long family walks or bike rides are excellent methods to be active and to spend quality time with the family. When it comes to activities, try to be creative and think outside the box. One example is to sign up for a walk/run fundraiser which will allow for activity while benefiting a good cause.
With the growing popularity of video games and computers in our culture, exercising is of less interest to young children and adolescents. Parents are encouraged to control their child’s “screen time” to include television, computers, tablets and video games to two hours a day. Limiting time with electronics provides the opportunity for young people to be more physically active.
Healthy eating habits also have an impact on obesity. Home cooked meals and low frequency of quick and fast food meals will help. When cooking at home, using the oven or grill are healthier options to frying foods. Also ensure lean meats, such as chicken, turkey or fish, are used as often as possible to minimize higher cholesterol and fatty meats such as pork and beef. Lastly, finding ways to incorporate five servings of fruits and vegetables into the families’ diet will help fight obesity in the household.
Childhood obesity can be a thing of the past if some simple tools are used. Remember the 5-2-1 rule: 5 fruits and vegetables a day, no more than 2 hours of screen time and at least one hour of exercise a day. These efforts will help battle the growing problem of childhood obesity in America.