Get Moving, Snoozing, and Drinking to Combat Childhood Obesity
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children with obesity has more than tripled since 1970, meaning that one in five school-aged children is obese. Children who are obese have a greater risk of developing other chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, all of which can continue into their adult years. If your child is in danger of becoming one of these statistics, adding even a small amount of physical activity to your daily routine can put your child on the road to living a healthier lifestyle.
The CDC, in its 2008 US Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, recommended that children and adolescents between 6 and 17 years of age should have 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Just 60 minutes a day can decrease your child’s risk of chronic illnesses and such things as depression and anxiety. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which trigger positive feelings in the body, reducing stress, boosting self-esteem, and even helping us sleep better. There are many ways to get moving and start producing those endorphins. If you attend a neighborhood school, walk your child to school each morning. At night after supper and homework, take a walk around the neighborhood as a family. With cooler temperatures, October and November are great months to get out and hike, utilizing the trails around the Natchez Trace Parkway or the Music Bend Trail near Veterans Park in Tupelo. Set a goal as a family to run one of the many 5K races in Northeast Mississippi thisfall and enjoy training together. Make it fun and it will be easy to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that preschool children ages 3 to 5 should get 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night. They also recommend that school-aged children from 6 to 13 get 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night. In order to make this happen, they offer several tips for getting your little ones to sleep. First, make sure yourchild has a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time each night helps them get the sleep their bodies need to grow. The Foundation also recommends that children sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room, in a consistent environment. Finally, children should not watch television or spend time on electronic devices near bedtime. Too much “screen time” late at night has been linked to difficulty falling asleep, anxiety, disruptions in sleep patterns.
While healthy eating plays a major role in reducing the risk of childhood obesity, one way in which your child can make healthy changes is drinking more water. Cutting out sugar-packed soft drinks alone can make a huge difference in your child’s caloric intake. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that kids should generally drink between six and eight glasses of water each day, while also consuming the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. When kids are physically active, they should up their intake of water to account for fluids lost during that activity. Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, so maintaining the balance is of great importance to overall health. Let your child pick out his own water bottle with his favorite super hero or color so that he enjoys filling it up and drinking it. Make a chart where he can mark off each glass of water he has consumed, making it a fun, family competition. So, next time your child says he’s thirsty, serve him up a large glass of ice water.
With just a few changes, you can help make sure that your child is on a path to health instead of heading down the road to obesity. By making healthy choices for your family, you can help give your children the gift of a healthy life.
Jennie Bradford Curlee is the Public Relations and International Sales Director for the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. Her family’s favorite physical activity is playing basketball outside together and they all bring their own water bottles.