Preventing Childhood Obesity: The Fight For Our Children’s Health
Obesity in the USA has gone from a problem to a crisis to a full-blown epidemic. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in this country over the last three decades – one in every three children is now overweight.
In addition to poor physical fitness and diminished self-esteem, these children will be at an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, and other health problems.
The primary causes of childhood obesity are unhealthy eating habits and a lack of physical activity. The rise in obesity can be linked to changes in eating patterns among Americans in general – eating more away from home, drinking more sugary drinks and sodas, and more frequent snacking.
While there are a variety of methods that have been proposed to reduce the alarming trend of obesity, one of the most important is simply getting children active. To that end, overhauling physical education for children is crucial.
An important way to increase participation in gym class is to make the class more fun for children. Entertaining games are needed for physical education (PE) classes to get kids not only to participate, but to make them excited to participate.
However, the fun aspect cannot overshadow the physical education aspect. It is still gym class, after all – exercise and healthy habits are still the primary focus. Recent research shows that fun PE activities engaging children in moderate to vigorous exercise for at least half of the class time are effective in keeping kids in good shape.
While getting kids to exercise is certainly an important task in ending (or at least reducing) childhood obesity, it must be supplemented with health and nutrition education. Exercise is key, but children must also develop healthy eating habits – it is no coincidence that rising obesity is linked to an increase in fast food and snack consumption as well as the disintegration of formal meal times (i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
Recent, effective school physical education programs have also included a lecture component, making use of dietitians to offer nutritional advice to students. Parents, also, can do their part to reinforce good eating habits by preparing balanced meals, reducing or eliminating snacks high in fat and sugar, teaching their children to eat healthy portions, pack nutritional lunches, and limit exposure to fast food.
Some school PE classes also lecture children about practicing healthy habits on their own time, not just when they are forced to at school. Estimates show that children spend at least seven hours outside of school on the computer, watching television, and playing videogames.
The amount of time they exercise in physical education class is not enough to counteract this period of inactivity, which is often combined with snacking. These children must be taught self-management skills, so that they will want to be active on their own, independent of teachers or coaches demanding them to be active.
They must want to put down the remote and pick up the football or bicycle. Their livelihoods depend on it.
Amanda is a writer and blogger living in San Diego, CA (USA). She writes about the importance of physical education for kids to help combat the long-term challenges of childhood .obesity.
This article may be reproduced with the author bio intact and a live link back to http://www.lovingyourchild.com
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