Parents are faced with numerous concerns and responsibilities when it comes to the well-being and health of their children. One of the largest threats to children's health is also one that is highly preventable. This threat is childhood obesity, and despite its preventable nature many of the youth in the United States are affected by it. The dangers associated with childhood obesity are abundant and can negatively impact a child over the course of his or her lifetime. Fortunately, parents can help their children avoid unnecessary weight gain or, if weight gain is already an issue, they can help their children to come back down to a healthy and appropriate weight.
When examining childhood obesity, the full impact of how serious a problem it is, is easily ascertained in the study of its growth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a problem that, in children, has grown by more than double in a 30 year period. Percentage wise, the CDC notes that the percentage of obese children rose from approximately 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2012. This rise in obesity can be blamed on many factors, such as advanced technology and changes in childhood interests with time. As a result of these changes and advancements, children are often not as active as they once were, and outdoor activities are less desirable than ones that can be accomplished indoors. These activities include playing video games, computer usage, and watching television programs. These are things that often consume an otherwise healthy child's interests and prevent them from going outside to run, jump, and participate in physical activities. In addition, the prevalence of fast and sugary junk foods is also a contributor. The convenience of these types of food has helped to make them more common in many busy households. This type of food coupled with less active interests has combined to create a higher risk of obesity.
Getting outdoors can help solve this problem of obesity by getting kids to move. The more a child moves and is active, the more energy is expended and the more calories are burned. Physical activity also strengthens muscles and bones. Parents and guardians can help encourage their children to move by setting limits and restrictions on indoor play time. Taking kids to pubic play areas such as the park is a simple way to get them outside for more play. Enrolling older children in sports is also another way to let them play and have fun. Activities that parents can perform with their children, such as bike riding, are also highly beneficial as they provide parent/child bonding time, but also help kids to play outside, have fun, and potentially lose weight. Parents should also begin introducing more healthy food items and drinks into the home. Useful outdoor activities that get children's heart pumping and help burn calories include not only bike riding, but also skate boarding, jumping rope, games like tag, hide-and-seek or treasure hunting, etc. Choosing age appropriate activities that one's child or children will enjoy is important as experts advise that they spend as much as 60 minutes of each day participating in some form of physical exercise.
Keeping kids healthy is a delicate balance that parents or guardians must carefully master. One of the greatest challenges to providing that balance today comes in the form of computers, video games and even text messaging for older kids. Although these forms of entertainment and communication are fun for children, it is vital that they are also exposed to outdoor time as well. Outdoor activity is crucial for physical fitness. These activities reduce the risk of obesity while imparting positive health benefits. Parents who get their children in the habit of participating in outdoor activities, in addition to making healthy changes in life, are helping to establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
For more information about childhood obesity and combating it with outdoor activity, click on any of the following links.
- Childhood Obesity Facts
- Childhood Obesity
- Obesity in Children
- How to Get Kids to Play Outdoors
- Disease and Conditions: Childhood Obesity
- Overweight and Obesity
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Obesity in Children
- Childhood Obesity: Common Misconceptions
- Why Be Out There – Health Benefits
- Outdoor Play Benefits (PDF)
- Benefits of Taking Kids Outside (PDF)
- American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Kids
- Healthy Tips for Active Playtime (PDF)
- Childhood Obesity: Prevalence, Treatment and Prevention
- Overweight Children (PDF)
- Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children's Health (PDF)
- Bush Urges Parents to Get Kids Outdoors to Fight Childhood Obesity
- How to Motivate Your Child to Get Off the Couch
- Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents
- Childhood Obesity, Prevalence and Prevention
Find more about the author: Kim Hart