The United States is experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese, and this epidemic also affects children. One third of all children ages two to 19 are overweight or obese. The risk of developing obesity-related diseases such as diabetes increases greatly as children do not exercise or are not exposed to proper nutritional diets. Not only do these children face constant health problems and restrictions as adults, but it is estimated that an obese adult adds $1,400 in excess health care costs annually compared to his or her non-obese peers.
Cultural acceptance of eating out daily and avoiding physical activity has unfortunately aided to rampant increases in weight gain. In the fast-paced life of an American family, nutrition and exercise most likely take a back seat. As a parent or guardian, we provide examples and set a standard of living that our children learn to follow. So, how do we change the habits of a nation and lead the next generation toward a healthier lifestyle? We start with ourselves. The challenge of making good choices can be a bumpy road, but knowing that these changes lead to a greater future for us and our loved ones can be an excellent motivator.
Weight management, for any age, can be narrowed down to watching calories in and calories out. How much are you eating and how much are you expending? Frankly, it comes down to nutrition and exercise.
The modern-day food system has become exceedingly reliant on high-fructose corn syrup, refined grains, processed food and artificial sweeteners, all of which are part of a recipe for big-time weight gain. This is the number one source of calories in the U.S. Most Americans spend 90 percent of their food money on processed foods, which promise to make you pack on the pounds by interfering with your body’s ability to regulate energy intake and energy expenditure. Simple life-changing steps to take to help reverse bad nutritional habits include limiting sugary drinks and drinking more water and eating balanced meals that follow the USDA food pyramid, which provides important nutrients for growth and development. School lunches make up a significant portion of a child’s diet, and the good news is that school systems are following government standards in providing proper nutrition.
Increasing exercise is another factor in preventing weight gain in children. Exercise is extremely important for all children. Overweight or obese children need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and major studies show that 60 minutes a day is best. Any activity that gets your child up and away from the television set, video game or computer is a good idea. School recess and afterschool sport teams and leagues are great ways to start an active lifestyle. Family exercise can also demonstrate the importance of exercise to your children, starting with daily walks and gradually increasing the intensity.
Educating yourself and implementing a healthy lifestyle will have rippling effects. Providing opportunities for children to choose their avenue of activity and learn proper nutritional habits, can decrease the number of obese and overweight people in the United States. FBN
Written by Lindsay Cota, an ACE certified personal trainer at High Altitude Personal Training, and recent graduate from NAU with a degree in Exercise Science.