Get kids on a healthy track |

Childhood obesity is a serious medical issue affecting children around the world, but notably in North America. While the issue has been around for decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says American children and teenagers have witnessed a significant increase in weight gain since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Younger school-aged children have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. A study published in September 2021 found the percentage of obese children and teens increased to 22% compared with 19% before the pandemic. The CDC looked at the BMI of study subjects between March 1, 2020 and November 30, 2020. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Alyson Goodman of the CDCÕs National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, described the results as “substantial and alarming.”

Being less physically active, overweight and eating the wrong foods can start children on a path toward problems that once were only considered conditions of adulthood, namely hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, offers the Mayo Clinic. To reverse course, parents, guardians and educators can focus on helping children become more physically fit. The following are a few ways to do so.

Sports practices, games, competitions, and other activities may keep children moving for an hour or more several days per week. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that only 25% of children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Emphasize a fun activity with a focus on movement that produces shortness of breath, body warmth and sweat. These are indicators that the heart rate is really pumping.

Make exercise something kids can look forward to. Reward a job well done on a test with extra time biking with friends or a hiking trip to a scenic national park. Kids will be begin to associate exercise with fun.

Kids who eat a variety of foods are more likely to get the nutrients the body needs, according to Kids Health¨ by Nemours. These healthy foods should include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, with an emphasis on vegetables.

Children may be inclined to entertain themselves by heading for the television, mobile phone or tablet first, especially after a year-plus of being stuck indoors. But parents can make a concerted effort to limit kids’ screen time in favor of more physically challenging pursuits.

Teach healthy eating habits

A Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association found that 61% of respondents age 18 and older reported a median weight gain of 15 pounds during the pandemic. Teach children that weight loss is accomplished when more calories are burned than consumed. Pay attention to portion sizes and explain how beverages like fruit juices can be sneaky sources of extra calories.

Children may need a little extra help getting fit, especially if they gained weight during the pandemic. Teaching healthy habits now can help kids enjoy healthy futures.

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