Childhood is a time to explore and be active. While technology can help make our lives simpler, trends show that as technology advances, our children’s health worsens. Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have become much higher – from 5% to 18.5%. Each year in the United States, $14 billion is spent on health expenses linked to childhood obesity. Prevention is important to help save money, but also to guard children from the harmful, life-long effects related to obesity.
Immediate effects that can lead to a lifetime of problems include:
- High blood pressure and cholesterol – which can lead to heart disease
- Increased risk of glucose or insulin problems – which can lead to type 2 diabetes
- Breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea
- Joint problems and muscle discomfort
- Fatty liver disease, heartburn and gallstones
- Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
- Low self-esteem
- Self-reported lower quality of life
- Social problems such as bullying
Adult diseases and risk factors tend to be more severe when one is obese as a child. Since we cannot – and should not – stop technology from advancing, what can we do to prevent the childhood obesity trend from continuing to rise? Preventative measures are easy to do, but it takes time to form a new habit. There are many solutions out there, so look for healthy habits that work well for your family. Try these tips:
- Take family walks in the morning or after dinner. There are benefits to both!
- Exercising before you start your day can help wake up your body and brain, improving your mental awareness and productivity for the whole day.
- In the evening, exercise can help you wind down for the night and promote quality sleep.
- Set a limit for screen time and follow it yourself! Watching TV, playing video games, or being on a computer can be addicting. Lead by example to make it easier for all.
- Try a new, healthy recipe at least once a week. It’s easy to throw in a frozen pizza after work, but there are so many benefits to trying new foods, and it can be fun! The whole family can help choose, shop for and make the meal.
To learn more about healthy habits for your family, go to www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/children/index.html.
Sources: CDC.gov, Stateofobesity.org