By Ms. Allison Ballin, MS,BCBA
Here in the US between 15-20% of our children are overweight. Since the early 70’s, the percentage of overweight kids has more than doubled. Today, 10% of 2-5 year-olds and more than 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight. If you combine the percent of kids who are overweight with the percent of kids who are at risk of becoming overweight, about one out of three children are affected. This is a staggering statistic made all the more alarming with the fact that the number of overweight children continues to grow.
Children become overweight for a variety of reasons but the most common and disturbing reasons are lack of physical activity and bad eating habits. Much of what children eat is ‘fast and easy’ from fast food to microwave and prepackaged foods
Plus, now, more than ever, life is sedentary – children spend more time playing with electronic devices, from computers to handheld video game systems, than actively playing outside. Television is a major culprit.
Kids younger than 8 spend an average of 2.5 hours watching TV or playing video games, and kids 8 and up spend 4.5 hours in front of the TV or playing video games.
Kids who watch more than 4 hours a day are more likely to be overweight compared with kids who watch 2 hours or less. So it make sense that having a TV in a child’s bedroom is linked to the likelihood of being overweight. In other words, once many kids get home from school, virtually all of their free time before dinner, doing homework, and getting ready for bed is spent in front of one screen or another!
Well, What Can We Do?
Get the whole family involved in being healthy. This means that everyone partakes in choosing healthy meals for the family, deciding on what types of family exercise gets done and so forth. Teach your kids how to eat healthy, in fact if they are not eating healthy, it might stem from the meals that they are having at home. We could all learn more about nutrition and how and what we eat affects how we look and feel physically.
Kids are smart, they know when they have a weight problem, they just need someone to work with them and just like everyone else they need support and encouragement. Let them become engaged in the process. Physical activity should not be a chore, but a chance for the whole family to spend some time together in a healthy way. Just make sure that everyone is involved in the decision process.
There are plenty of online resources that will help you plan out and determine a healthy diet, as well as other resources for planning family activities. Believe it or not there are still a lot of activities (besides watching TV) that can be done by the whole family.
So eat healthy and get outside and plan to have some fun. You will be amazed at how much better everyone will feel.