A Growing Epidemic
Not many people like to talk about it, but we have a growing problem in America. A problem that has no doubt been worsened by the pandemic with quarantines, poor eating habits, limited physical activity, and an increasing dependency on electronic devices. Childhood obesity is a multi-dimensional epidemic that affects both short and long term wellbeing of our precious little ones. It also has a ripple effect throughout our families, communities, and society as a whole.
Growing Up Unwell
According to the CDC, over 18.5% of children are obese in this country. That's tripled since the 1980s with no signs of slowing down. Childcare centers, schools, or communities can affect diet and activity. Kids who suffer from obesity experience negative feelings and their overall health suffers tremendously.
As they grow into adults, many continue to carry negative emotions and maintain low self-esteem. Furthermore, childhood obesity leads to increased risks of heart disease and diabetes, as well as complications from illness like COVID-19. If trends continue, we can expect negative impacts to healthcare systems, workforce capabilities, military readiness, and other aspects of our society.
Mind Over Matter
Schools have had many challenges over the last year, which will transition to new obstacles. Virtual classrooms have not been the best resource for kids to stay active. As they return to in-person settings, many physical education teachers have noticed student weight-gain, poor conditioning, limited confidence, and resistance to trying new activities.
Tightening budgets and shifting dynamics may further increase the health and wellness divide. The youth sports industry already caters to those with more skills, resources, and influence. Parks and Recreation programs and the like may have reduced capabilities in the future with less available funding. Our society must work for positive factors for healthy food affordability, peer and social supports, marketing and promotion, and policies that determine how a community is designed.
Luckily, kids have a natural ability and desire to PLAY! Parents can help encourage less screen time and help them to get active. There are many free resources to learn and practice fundamental movements that build confidence. If you are not quite ready for organized sports, look into local or online coaching services.
Whatever your approach, keep it fun so the kids learn to love athletics! They will be more likely to stick with it for lifelong health and wellness benefits. And if you are in a position to make it easier for families, please do so. The path to reaching obtainable fitness goals shouldn't be unnecessarily difficult. The growing childhood obesity epidemic impacts us all!