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Jarrod Beachum, PA-C

This week I would like to discuss childhood obesity, as this month is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Talking about this is important because over the past few generations, children have become increasingly obese, and we are seeing the earlier onset of chronic disease than ever before. Some studies indicate that about 10% of 4 and 5-year-old kids are overweight, which is twice the percentage 20 years ago. That percentage rises with age groups, with over 25% of kids 6 to 11 being overweight.

Researchers attribute two main causes of the rise in childhood obesity: unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. Every year more and more processed food is put into the American diet. With more adults working during the evening hours and weekends, the convenience of fast food and pre-made meals or restaurants are winning out against nutritious home-cooked meals.

Children are learning dietary and activity habits that will be difficult to break later in life. If they are conditioned that when they are hungry, they can just grab a soda and a bag of chips from the pantry, then that is what they will do every time. So, we must actively promote a healthy lifestyle by starting at home and setting the example. That includes making nutritious foods prominent in the household and limiting the availability of junk food. One tip is to make healthy snacks, such as whole fruits and veggies, easily accessible and visible. Move the junk food to a high place out of sight so you can control how much is consumed. We tend to eat what catches our eye when we are hungry, so controlling the choices will make a profound difference in their health.

Another way to help your children is to increase their daily activity. Many schools across the country have drastically cut recreational time in favor of more class time thanks to the importance of standardized testing. Many kids will then be further inundated with homework when they get home, giving less and less time for play. Play is not only essential to physical health, but to mental and social growth as well. Therefore, it is recommended that kids get at least an hour a day of good cardiovascular exercise. That means going for brisk walks, playing active sports, running, etc. I suggest that you make it a special time each day that the family can work out together. Don’t present it as a chore to do, but rather a fun activity that brings the family closer. The kids won’t mind exercising if they are having fun doing it.

Finally, start low and slow. Not every child who has extra weight is necessarily obese and in danger. Kids grow and develop at different rates. It is best to have the child examined by a healthcare professional who can help determine what your child needs to focus on. Diet programs are generally not appropriate for kids, and we can help you adjust their habits to promote healthy growth and development. If you have any questions about this, please feel to stop by 45 Urgent Care and we will be happy to discuss this with you.

– Jarrod Beachum, PA-C