Mar 20 2011

Tackling Childhood Obesity

Tackling Childhood Obesity – Why this issue is such a problem and how a local group is trying to make a difference. Published by Michelle Fiscus in Herndon.Patch.com, March 18 2011.

The weekend is just around the corner. This weekend also happens to mark the start of spring.

The cold temperatures will give way to sunny days, perfect for enjoying the outdoors. Unfortunately, most of us will still sit in front of our laptops or televisions. It’s that behavior that children are adopting to the point of becoming a serious problem.

It’s such a concern that First Lady Michelle Obama made it her work to get kids more physically active. In February 2010, she started the Let’s Move! Campaign. It aims to address the physical and emotional health of our children.

That subject has permeated our society and resonated with the media for years. But, it’s more than just water cooler talk. Over the past three decades the childhood obesity rates have tripled. These children face a lifetime of problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.

In addition to all the physical problems, kids suffer from social issues. We all know kids can be mean. And the stress of being made fun of for weight related issues, takes it toll very early. Psychologists say these kids develop low self esteem. That contributes to academic and social problems which continue into adulthood.

How did we get in such a situation? Just 30 years ago, kids led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Instead of walking to school, children are taking the bus or being chauffeured in cars. Many physical education and after school sports programs have fell victim to budget cuts. And not unlike the adult role models in their lives, kids are turning down time outside in order to spend more time in front of the TV, computer or a video game.

Parents who turn to quick fix fast food meals are also contributing to the problem. With so few healthy meals being cooked at home, kids are eating many more calories than they actually need. And even if meals are not an issue, children eat more snacks today than ever.

So when does a “chubby” child go from being a few pounds overweight to falling into the category of obese? The main tool used today is called the body mass index or BMI. It measures weight in relation to height. It’s not a perfect system. But, it can serve as a screening tool for health professionals.

There are several categories for kids. It takes into consideration height and weight but also sex, age and the physical changes that occur during puberty. Your physician can explain where your child ranks and whether or not he/she is at a healthy weight.

A local organization understands the need to get kids moving. The group is called Fit Kids™ and their goal is to provide a workout for the mind as well as the body. Their instructors are trained professionals who know how to get kids moving and enjoy working with children. The group is mostly in area preschools but they also have summer camps. The goal is always to get kids off the couch and participate in games or activities that promote movement.

The group is having an event this weekend at the Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. While the event is indoors, it will stress wellness and exercise in our community, as well as give kids ideas on sports and games they can play outside.

It’s a great way to show kids physical activity can be fun and gives you a way to start a conversation with your child about the importance of diet and exercise on their health.