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Shockingly, it is estimated that 22 million of the world’s children under 5 are overweight or obese and approximately one in four American children are overweight. The problem this presents is that these children are more susceptible to pediatric hypertension, type II diabetes, greater risk of heart disease, the extra burden of weight on joints, not to mention, the social effects with peers. The medical community has already indicated a surge in childhood diabetes and of the children diagnosed with Type II diabetes, 85% are obese.
Childhood obesity can be caused by a combination of many factors, but certainly two of the biggest contributors are lack of exercise and poor dietary habits.
Today’s youth spend several hours a day in front of televisions and computers. These activities, along with the lack of physical exercise programs at school, are not providing the energy the body requires to burn off calorie intake. Plus, energy levels continue to decline as additional weight is gained, inhibiting the desire to spend the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise (in addition to what the child may receive during school). The benefits to physical exercise are extremely important though as it will reduce the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, along with reducing or maintaining body weight. Additional benefits include, building healthy muscles, bones and joints and improving depression and over all psychological well-being.
Dietary habits contribute to obesity as well and have changed greatly over time. Due to the busy lifestyles of two income households, the demand for quick and easy microwaveable food, fast food and snack foods have increased drastically. Also, many children are substituting soda and vending machine snacks for school lunches. Unfortunately, most of these types of foods are high in salt, sugar, fat or calories and have low nutrient content.
Bottom line, children look for role models. If they see the adults around them exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, they will be more apt to do those things as well. Fun family activities could include a walk, a bike ride, playing at the playground and shooting hoops on the basketball court.
A final note, if your child is overweight, consult your doctor. Rare hormonal disorders and/or other medical conditions can be diagnosed with blood tests and medical exams.