Every parent worries about making the right choices for their child, especially when it comes to their health. We do our best to monitor their physical activity and make sure they eat a balanced meal. Despite our intentions, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports about 1 in 5 children in the US has obesity.
Children are considered obese when they weigh at least 10% more than recommended for the height and body type, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This condition can contribute to a range of health issues such as asthma, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes. Obesity may also affect your child emotionally leading to a negative body image, low self-esteem, and even depression. September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and it’s a great opportunity to learn better habits to support a healthy lifestyle.
How do I find out if my child is considered obese?
Most physicians still calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) for their patients. However, there are also other factors to consider. For example, you’ve likely noticed that before a big growth spurt your child might gain a little weight. Puberty is another time that you might notice weight gain in your child. If you have concerns about your child’s weight, talk to their doctor. Their physician will be able to look at a larger picture, and determine when/if other actions need to be taken.
- BMI is a person’s weight divided by height. It is an easy method of screening for weight categories that may lead to potential health problems.
- For children and teens, BMI is age and sex specific.
- Calculate your child’s BMI here.
How can parents and caregivers build a healthy future?
No matter your child’s BMI, there are factors that can contribute to childhood obesity that you can help monitor such as too much screen time, lack of sleep, and not getting enough physical activity. Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental problems. Here are some ways you can help build healthy habits for your family now that will build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle in their future:
- Visit your physician regularly. It is recommended that children have a well-child exam once a year.
- Be a role model by demonstrating healthy habits.
- Drink lots of water! Be sure water is available as an alternative to sodas or other sugary drinks.
- Provide nutritious meals with fruits and vegetables in place of foods high in added sugars or solid fats. Remember, small changes every day can lead to success! Are you in a dinner rut? Check out these healthy recipes the whole family will enjoy.
- Get at least the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
- Limit calorie-rich temptations such as cookies, and other sweets
- Create healthy sleep habits by sticking to a bedtime schedule. Your child needs at least 8 hours of sleep, maybe more depending on age. Find out how much sleep your child needs here.
- Limit screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.
Moving your body an hour a day may seem daunting. Regular physical activity benefits include better sleep, better academic achievement, and reduced feelings of anxiousness. We’ve got you covered with ideas to help keep kids moving!
5 Easy Ways for Kids to get 60 Minutes of Exercise a Day:
- Stretching for 10 minutes – Stretching helps keep nutrients and oxygen flowing and increases flexibility.
- After School Play – Let your kids get the wriggles out after school by giving them at least 30 minutes of playtime without the distractions of screens.
- Homework Breaks – Lots of assignments are computer based, so give your child periodic brain breaks by doing some jumping jacks or joining a dance party.
- Extracurricular Activity – Check with your child’s school or aftercare program to see if they provide sports or other fitness/dance programs.
- Family Walk – Exercising with your child is a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle at an early age. Take the family on a 15-minute walk around the block.
It’s important to keep in mind that children imitate adults. The entire family can work together to create healthy habits that will help support them through adulthood.