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Don't Let Kids' Fitness Slide this Summer

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Don't Let Kids' Fitness Slide this Summer

Most American children and teens are enjoying their summer break from the rigors of school. While youngsters deserve to kickback, catch some rays, and catch up with friends, summer shouldn't be sanctioned as the season for slacking off fitness- and healthy-eating-wise, particularly because childhood obesity is on the rise.

That's why ATRIO Health Plans is spreading the word that one in three U.S. kids and teens are now overweight or obese, and parents must stay vigilant—particularly throughout the summer, when offspring are free from physical-education classes and have more time to snack. While obesity negatively affects people of all ages, the medical impact on children and adolescents—because it can carry over into adulthood—is especially alarming. Childhood obesity is responsible for a broad range of health problems that previously were considered adult-health issues. Specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the immediate health effects of childhood obesity as:

  • Obese children and teens are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youngsters had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Youngsters who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social as well as psychological problems, such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Tips for Parents

The key to avoiding the negative health impacts of childhood obesity is for parents to help their kids—from an early stage in their lives—to maintain the appropriate weight for their height. With that goal in mind, nutrition and fitness experts offer parents the following tips:

  • When buying groceries, opt for fruits and vegetables. Always have healthy snacks available, and never use food as a reward or punishment.
  • Limit sweetened beverages, including soda, energy drinks, and those containing fruit juice. Healthier choices are water, 1% or fat-free milk, and 100% fruit juice.
  • Sit down together for family meals. Avoid eating in front of a screen, such as a television, computer, or videogame.
  • Decrease the number of times you eat out, especially at fast-food restaurants.
  • Limit recreational computer and TV time to no more than two hours a day. Other sedentary activities—including playing videogames or talking on the phone—also should be limited.
  • Emphasize activity, not exercise. Structured exercise programs aren’t necessary, as the goal is simply to get your youngster moving, and that can be accomplished through traditional childhood activities such as playing hide-and-seek or jumping rope.
  • If you want an active child, be active yourself. Find fun activities that the whole family can do together—consider swimming, hiking, or gardening.

Follow these tips and—by summer's end—your kids will be on a year-round path leading to lifetime of wellness.