In one of her greatest songs, Whitney Houston declared, "children are our future." That we should "teach them well and let them lead the way" and "show them all the beauty they possess inside." And while these lyrics continue to play out within her famous song, their message has gotten a bit lost as our children face an obesity epidemic of great proportions.
According to Parents magazine, 15 percent of kids and teens are overweight and an additional 17 percent are obese. If we do the math—that's 32 percent of kids and teens living under the shadow of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and other ailments commonly associated with a body weight that's higher than average. But what exactly is a body weight that's higher than average? It's a question that merits a personal answer, one most usually determined by a child's BMI. Or, body mass index, which is based on height and weight. A simple search online produces a number of reliable calculators, results of which can then be compared to national averages—anything above the 85th percentile is considered overweight. Anything above the 95th percentile is considered obese (Source: CDC, "About BMI for Children and Teens.")
Yet—combating childhood obesity doesn't have to be a complicated, reference-the-numbers thing. There are a ton of ways to combat childhood obesity at home, and it all starts with one simple thing: Moving.
5 Ways to Combat Childhood Obesity
1. Move More. Obvious, yes, but crucial to the fight. Limit time in front of the television, computer or video game console. Encourage your children, young and old, to find active ways to self-entertain. Or better yet—move with them.
2. Educate by Example. Be a beacon of inspiration for your children. Show them what a fit, active and healthy lifestyle looks like. When this happens your children grow up knowing that healthy simply is the way of life.
3. Eat your Greens. Eat them often. We live in a society with a food industry that's running wild -- and not in a good way. To combat this, encourage your children to make healthy choices or if necessary physically make healthy choices for them via home-cooked meals and prep-ahead lunches for grab-and-go convenience. Teach them to look at food labels; show them why one product is healthier than another so that they develop the skills necessary to make their own healthy choices without your help. Most importantly, encourage healthy portion control—remember, however, that restrictive diets are typically NOT appropriate for children. Which is why portion control is key!
4. Discourage Mindless Eating. It's time to break bad snack habits. Are your children really hungry or if they're just bored. Find other ways to entertain your children. Find other ways to reward your children.
5. Seek out Physical Activities. Children can and should exercise! This goes back to the "move more" concept, but takes it one step further. A game of tag is great, but you might consider inviting your older child to "tag" along with you on a run or bike ride. They might even be able to hit the gym with you, depending on the policies in place. And, of course, there are always sports. But remember, children should not be pushed beyond their limits. Sports should be fun at any and every age.
Bottom line, live a fit life and your kids will be inspired to do the same. This obesity epidemic we face...it doesn't have to be an epidemic at all. Take care of your kids. Teach them.
Tara Sabo is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, mother and wife. She writes about these roles and more at
www.adailydoseoffit.com_ and can be found on
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