More Ideas to Beat Childhood Obesity
The obesity epidemic in America isn't just limited to adults. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 17% (or 12.5 million) American children and adolescents age 2-19 are obese. Since 1980, the obesity rates for children and adolescents have almost tripled.
When we last wrote about childhood obesity in 2011, there were still many unanswered questions about what's causing the problem. Now we have some definitive research that shows what's behind the problem and how parents can make real changes in their child's life. Here's what you can do.
Avoid putting your child on the same diet you're on. Most commercial diets are ineffective (that's why so many come and go each year) and quite a few are dangerous. Children are not merely mini-versions of adults.
Being active is critical. According to the Nielson Company, in 2010 children were watching television, texting, playing video games and sitting in front of a computer for 7 hours and 38 minutes DAILY. That's nearly the same amount of time for a full-time job. That number excludes any time children use computers while at school or in class. Every hour that your child sits in front of a screen is an hour they don't have moving around and getting exercise.
Ideally, children should limit their out of school "electronic interactions" to two hours or less per day. Every hour above two dramatically increases the risks for obesity and long-term physical problems.
Here's where the adults come in. Children won't suddenly become more active just by telling them to. You, the parent must set an example. Children are much more likely to be physically active if their parents are so you've got to get off your butt. Use routine errands and chores as an excuse to get moving. Here are a few examples.
When I was growing my, my parents had a set of chores for me to complete when I got home from school. There was a chart on the refrigerator that listed my duties beside each day of the week. Mondays I had to vacuum and dust two rooms. Tuesday I helped sort, wash and fold laundry. Wednesday was for cleaning my bathroom and Thursdays were for yard work. When chores were done, I was expected to do my homework. When that was done, I had an hour or two before dinner that I could meet up with my friends and play.
None of that time involved sitting in front of a television.
It's not all about work; you need to offer non-food incentives to encourage this behavior. I received an allowance based on whether I finished my chores on time or not. When I was learning to drive, washing the car each week was one of the things I did to get time behind the wheel.
Of course, many parents will point out things aren't that simple anymore. They're afraid to let their children run and play like they did because of what might happen. If that's a concern you have, enlist your school or non-profits for more help. Encourage your children to sign up for athletics at school or to take classes from clubs or organizations after class.
Here's where it gets a little tough. You can't be one of those parents that acts like a helicopter and hovers around their children during every activity. Researchers found that having a parent nearby suppressed kid's active play by about half. It's a catch-22. Parents want to be nearby to make sure their children are OK, but if they're too close, their children won't get the exercise they need.
Think about where you are. If you have the opportunity to back off a little, do it. For younger kids, doing something as simple as getting them out of the stroller more often to walk can work wonders.
Take control of the food and drink. Remember that a single 12-ounce soda can pack over half a child's daily allowance of sugar and it's full of nothing but empty calories. Fruit juices are no better. When kids want something sweet, give them a whole piece of fruit and a glass of water. Don't let children drink their calories (and while you're at it, neither should you.)
When you're eating dinner, don't force your kids to clean their plates. Yes, children need to eat a balanced diet, but they can't eat as much in one sitting as an adult can, don't make them. If you want everyone to eat less, a simple trick is to get smaller dinner plates. Studies show smaller plates cause people to put less on them and consume up to 30% less at every meal. And definitely avoid eating in front of the television; it distracts you from the food so you're likely to eat more.
Below are 12 more things you can do to get your children active outside.
|National Wildlife Federation Great American Campout. Camp in. Camp out. Camp ON! There's never been a better time to safely and responsibly connect with nature.
For more information, visit Great American Campout (nwf.org)
|Take everyone on a treasure hunt by going geocaching. You explore new places while learning how to read maps and use GPS devices. Math and logical reasoning are put to the test as well. For more information out to do it, read our article called "Eat the Alphabet and Geocaching."|
|Pack a picnic and hike someplace fun to eat. Wherever you choose, make sure it's far enough away to work up an appetite.|
|Bring a camera with a telephoto lens and a couple pairs of binoculars to go bird watching. See how many different birds you can identify in a 60-minute time frame. There are dozens of birding apps for smartphones that help you identify what's out there.|
|Learn simple things like how to blow a grass whistle, how to skip a stone, how to carve a piece of wood or how to make a daisy necklace. If you never learned how to do those things, search online and learn so you can teach it to your children.|
|Go on a scavenger hunt. For ideas, use the link below.|
|Use the things in your yard to play. Jump in a pile of leaves in the fall or make a snowman in winter.|
|Start a rock or shell collection. Make a list of where they came from as well as the different names and materials.|
|Join the Citizen Science Project
Help make science happen by volunteering for a real research project.
|Choose a bike instead of driving whenever you can.|
|Plant a garden. You'll learn all about dealing with weather, insects, patience and where things come from. Plus things always taste better when picked fresh from your own garden.|
|Go on a photo safari.|
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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.