Children and teens in America are three times more likely to be overweight than they were 30 years ago. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about one out of four U.S. children is now overweight or obese. While there are a few mysteries and unanswered questions behind this epidemic, some of the causes are painfully clear. Young people in the country may be the least active generation in history, and they’re also world-class consumers of high-fat, high-calorie junk food.
The extra weight has set off a wave of obesity-related conditions in children and teens, including asthma, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. There has even been an upsurge in cases of childhood type 2 diabetes, an illness that used to be extremely rare before middle age. Overweight children are also vulnerable to depression and low self-esteem. Even though more kids than ever are on the heavy side, the stigma remains.
Obesity is a serious, long-lasting health problem that young people can’t be expected to tackle on their own. It has to be a family effort.
It’s going to take a group effort to help your child reach a healthier weight and a healthier life. Your family or doctor can help by checking for weight-related health problems such as high blood pressure and or prediabetes. Many hospitals offer weight loss programs specifically aimed at children and teens. But no matter how much help you get from the outside, much of the work will have to happen at home.
Here are some tips from federal health agencies to help your child stay active:
- Make time for the entire family to participate in activities that everyone enjoys, perhaps walking, bicycling, or swimming.
- Plan active family outings. A hike out of town would be a great way to spend time together.
- Give kids active chores like raking leaves or washing the car.
- Enroll your child in a fun class or activity, perhaps swimming lessons, dance lessons, or flag football.
- Talk with your child about the possibility of joining a sports team at school. It doesn’t have to be a varsity team; intramural sports can be plenty active, too.
- Limit your child’s screen time — TV, video, and recreational time on the computer — to no more than two hours a day.
Obesity can increase your child’s risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and prediabetes, officials say.
With minor changes, you can help your child maintain a healthy weight.
To help your child safely shed pounds, the hospital encourages parents to:
- Reduce or eliminate sweetened beverages, including soda.
- Add more vegetables to family meals.
- Make sure your family is eating a high-fiber diet.
- Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.
- Eat together as a family as often as possible.
- Be a good role model. Enjoy healthy food in front of your child.
- Limit your child’s screen time to no more than two hours per day.
- Encourage your child to be active.