Public Health Concern
Obesity is the number one health concern for children. Obesity is determined by a child’s body mass index. It is defined as having a BMI above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age or sex. With a prevalence of 13.7 million children and adolescents affected, childhood obesity is a serious issue requiring urgent attention. Obesity rates are the highest in children ages 12 to 19-year olds. At this age, children learn and build habits they carry with them into their adult lives. Obese children are 75% more likely to be obese adults. Facing lifelong challenges such being at a higher risk for chronic health conditions, low self-esteem, and isolation from peers.
School’s Back in Session
Children spend roughly 1,290 hours of their year in school. This equals 14% of their entire year and 22% of their awake time. The best way to improve physical activity in order to lower childhood obesity is to start with a change in the classroom. Whether children are home schooled, attend private school, or attend public school, they will benefit from simple changes that will improve their health.
Many school interventions only aim toward reducing calorie intake and are nutritional based. School day physical activity has decreased considerably to focus on improving standardized test scores. Students, however, are not immune to this change and suffer consequences of an inactive environment. Physical inactivity leads to weight gain, an increased risk for diseases, and a decrease in classroom engagement and productivity.
What Can Be Done to Help Decrease and Prevent Childhood Obesity?
Though childhood obesity is a growing concern, it is not an irreversible issue that can’t be improved with simple lifestyle changes.
Changes can be made at home.
As a parent or guardian, there are many ways to either prevent or decrease obesity in the lives of your children! The CDC recommends the following:
- Encourage a healthier, more balanced diet
- Reduce sedentary time
- Add physical activity to their daily routine
One of the best things a parent can do for your child’s nutrition is to make sure their meals are balanced and rich in healthy foods. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, dairy, lean meat, and water into their daily eating habits. Avoid consumption of foods and beverages high in sugar and fat. Another simple change is to incorporate physical activity into their after-school routine. Whether it’s going for a walk, throwing a ball outside, or playing tag, make sure to turn off the screens and encourage them to choose an activity that gets them moving!
Changes that can be made in schools.
Changes can also occur in the school setting to promote and increase physical activity:
- Incorporate standing desks into the back row of the classroom
- Integrate 5-minute movement breaks between lessons
- Increase PE or Recess by 10 minutes to allow for more movement
An increase in physical activity in the classroom leads to improvement in engagement, cognition, productivity, and the overall health and well-being of children. Though childhood obesity isn’t a problem that will be solved overnight, it’s prevalence can be reduced significantly if the community, schools, and parents come together to provide a healthier environment for their children!