Childhood obesity is a serious health issue that continues to be a challenge in this country and all over the world. According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity in the United States was 19.3% and affected over 14 million children between the ages of 2 and 19 in 2017 and 2018. This is a major concern as nearly every system of the body can be affected by obesity – the heart and lungs, muscles and bones, digestion and hormones. The impact it can have on a young person’s mental health can leave a long-lasting scar, and the increased risk of serious health issues later in life is also a troubling issue.
Spending too little time being physically active, more time watching TV, sitting in front of a screen, along with an increased consumption of high fat and sugary foods are the main behaviors contributing to weight gain among children. Children between the ages of 6-17 years of age should be doing at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day and children ages 3-5 years should be active throughout the day, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
It is more important than ever that children learn and be given the opportunity to make healthy food choices and encouraged to be active every day. Sitting in front of a screen and the availability of unhealthy foods have begun to take their toll on the physical and mental health of our children. Schools, daycares, and community centers can promote healthy lifestyles by providing nutritious meals and snacks and offering opportunities to participate in fun activities. Teaching well-balanced eating habits and encouraging physical activity every day can give children the tools they need to continue living a healthy lifestyle well into adulthood.