Dear Friends,

After taking a break I am coming back to you with a blog that addresses the fitness needs of an age group opposite to those I wrote about last time, our children and adolescents. Childhood obesity has according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) tripled over the past 30 years, increasing from 7% in 1980 to 20% in 2008 among 6-11 year old kids and in the same time period increasing from 5% to 18% among the adolescents (age 12-19).

One third of all children 6-19 were overweight. Healthy weight, over weight and obesity are defined in children and teenagers with the help of the BMI (Body Mass Index – relationship between body height and body weight) in addition age and sex are taken into mathematical consideration.

Children among the 5th-85th percentile are considered “healthy weight”, 85th-less than 95th percentile are considered “over weight”, and those 95th percentile and higher are labeled “obese”.

The effects of being over weight and obese have immediate and long term health consequences.

Early heath effects:

  • Increased risk of cardio-vascular disease (due to hypertension and hyperlipidemia).
  • Increase in pre-diabetic conditions
  • Extra weight is also hard on joints and bones creating early onsets of osteo-arthritis.
  • Being out of shape and furthermore leads in many to being ostracized and suffer from poor self-esteem.

Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This chance increases to 80% if one or more of the parent/s is/are overweight or obese.

Health consequences later in live include:

  • Increased risks for type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk for heart attacks and strokes
  • Greater rate of osteoarthritis
  • Increased risk for many forms of cancer

How can I as a parent prevent my child from growing overweight or obese or help him/her when already overweight?

In the vast majority of cases childhood obesity  is a result of caloric imbalance. Too many calories are being consumed while too little calories are being used for physical activities. In plain English; most children spend too much time in front of TV and computer screens while consuming high caloric foods of very little or no nutritional value.

Educating your youngster on healthy dietary choices, limiting his/her screen time and encouraging physical activity by being a role model and activity partner goes a long way in the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity. When addressing the need for more physical activity please realize that sending your child outdoors is not enough to encourage physical activity. You going to the pool, playground or neighborhood park together and engaging your child goes a lot further.

Another mistake parents make when choosing a physical activity for their kids is to integrate them into their own routines i.e. jogging. When deciding on a specific activity for your child please take his/her age and physical developmental stage into consideration. Jogging might be a good choice for a 16 year old adolescent (if it isn’t painful due to the extra weight), but is certainly utterly boring for a 5 or 6 six year old kid. In addition, young children up to age 12 are metabolically “High Speed Stop and Go Engines”.

Next time you have a chance observe little kids on a playground. They most likely go in short spurts to full exhaustion, recover and go full blast again. Chose playful forms of activities in younger years and continue on with more organized forms of exercising as your child grows up to be a teenager.

To give yourself and your child a better chance to be successful in dealing with her/his weight issues make sure your whole family is on board and ready to support each other in living a healthier live.

Helpful websites:

As always, your questions, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

In good health,