childhood obesity

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Information About Childhood Obesity

Today's youth are considered the most inactive generation in history caused in part by reductions in school physical education programs and unavailable or unsafe community recreational facilities. In the U.S., only the state of Illinois requires daily physical education for students in grades K to 12.

Many adverse health effects associated with overweight are observed in children and adolescents. Overweight during childhood and particularly adolescence is related to increased morbidity and mortality in later life. In situations where there are serious health, psychological or social problems, parents should seek out the best possible advice.

Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. Implementing prevention programs and getting a better understanding of treatment for youngsters is important to controlling the obesity epidemic.

The percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight and obese is now higher than ever before. Poor dietary habits and inactivity are reported to contribute to the increase of obesity in youth.

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Causes of Childhood Obesity

There are many factors that contribute to causing child and adolescent obesity - some are modifiable and others are not.

Modifiable causes include:

  • Physical Activity - Lack of regular exercise.
  • Sedentary behavior - High frequency of television viewing, computer usage, and similar behavior that takes up time that can be used for physical activity.
  • Socioeconomic Status - Low family incomes and non-working parents.
  • Eating Habits - Over-consumption of high-calorie foods. Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework.
  • Environment - Some factors are over-exposure to advertising of foods that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.

Non-changeable causes include:

  • Genetics - Greater risk of obesity has been found in children of obese and overweight parents.
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Prevention of Childhood Obesity

Teaching healthy behaviors at a young age is important since change becomes more difficult with age. Behaviors involving physical activity and nutrition are the cornerstone of preventing obesity in children and adolescents. Families and schools are the two most critical links in providing the foundation for those behaviors.

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Create an Active Environment:

  • Make time for the entire family to participate in regular physical activities that everyone enjoys. Try walking, bicycling or rollerblading.
  • Plan special active family-outings such as a hiking or ski trip.
  • Start an active neighborhood program. Join together with other families for group activities like touch-football, basketball, tag or hide-and-seek.
  • Assign active chores to every family member such as vacuuming, washing the car or mowing the lawn. Rotate the schedule of chores to avoid boredom from routine.
  • Enroll your child in a structured activity that he or she enjoys, such as tennis, gymnastics, martial arts, etc.
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