Could the childhood Obesity Epidemic really be improving? A recent study published in Pediatrics showed improving trends in physical activity, sedentary behavior, diet, and Body Mass Index in sixth to tenth grade students in the United States from 2001 to 2010. Researchers found an increase in the number of days a week children participated in at least 60 minutes of physical activity along with an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, and eating breakfast. They also found decreases in television viewing, eating sweets and drinking sugared beverages.
This is great news and shows significant improvements in teenagers doing healthy behaviors. Hopefully, this improvement reflects the education parents and children are receiving in schools, the community and doctors offices.
Another recent study showed that obesity rates have slightly decreased in preschool aged children in 18 different U.S. states. This also shows that we are successfully addressing childhood obesity in both preschool aged children and teenagers. This does not mean the epidemic is over. We still have a distance to go to reverse this epidemic, but we are moving forward. We can continue the fight by bringing healthy behaviors into our homes.
What can you do?
The easiest thing to do is to make your home as healthy as possible. This is your family’s safe place, a place where healthy behaviors are followed by habit. It is hard enough to battle weight gain with outside influences. When we walk or drive, we see advertisements for unhealthy foods and sedentary activities virtually everywhere. Just think of the billboards and fast food restaurants we pass on our roads and highways.
Here are a few suggestions for your home:
- Fruits and Vegetables: Make sure you have plenty of available fresh fruits and vegetables. When snacks are wanted, make it easy to grab a fruit like an apple or banana. Also, if there are vegetables in the fridge or freezer you will be more likely to cook them! Set a standard and be a positive role model - let your kids see you eating and enjoying fruits and vegetables.
- Junk Food: Don’t buy junk food! It is that simple! It will not be in the home if you don’t buy it! You and your children will be healthier without it and you will again be a positive role model by not eating it.
- Drinks: fill with your fridge with healthy drinks such as water and milk. Drinks with extra sugar are not healthy and are loaded with calories. If your family needs more variety then try some diet drinks, zero calorie drinks like flavored waters, or adding crystal light to water.
- Limit access to electronic devices: You do not need computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, hand held video games and TV’s in every room! Restrict the amount of time your children are allowed to be on a screen. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than two hours a day. Take TVs, computers, and portable devices out of bedrooms. Think about each new purchase do you really need every gadget and upgrade that comes out?
- Physical activity: Make physical activity part of your daily routine. The hour immediately after school is the best time for your children to be active. The weather is nicer and it is still light enough for outside play, family walks, or bike rides. If that hour does not work, try the hour after homework or the hour after dinner. Also investigate organized physical activities that may be available in your area. See what sports, dance classes, or other physical activities are offered at your child’s school, in your community, YMCA or place of worship.
Many of our children are getting healthier. They are watching less TV, eating more fruits and vegetables, being more active, drinking less sugared drinks, and as a result obesity rates are slightly decreased in some states. This is good news! We are fighting the childhood obesity epidemic and the battle is in our favor! With a healthier home we can increase this trend.
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