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Why Are Childhood Obesity Rates So High?

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the rates of childhood obesity rose from 19 percent to 22 percent (United States Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2022).  The results of a study by Nagata, Cortex, Cattle, et al (2021), showed that excessive screen time is one of the contributing factors in childhood obesity. In fact, screen time increased from 4 hours per day to 8 hours per day.

Other factors that contribute to high rates of childhood obesity include diet, lack of exercise, family history of obesity or overweight, family stress, socioeconomic factors such as limited resources, and medications.  There are some factors we can control and others that we cannot control.  We can address those factors that are within our control to reduce and or prevent childhood obesity.

How to Prevent or Reduce the Risk of Childhood Obesity

The first thing that can be done is to take a good look at the foods we are eating routinely. Choosing healthy foods should be the priority.  One way to encourage healthy food choices is to involve your child in meal planning. Allow the children to assist with preparing the food is a great way to encourage healthy food choices.  Remember, children learn by example. Set a good example by making healthy food choices.

Incorporate the five food groups into your meal planning. By eating a variety of from each of the food groups you can meet the nutrient requirements that are necessary for good health. It is not necessary to eat from each food group at every meal but it is important to eat some of the foods in each food group a few times a week.

As well, teach the children why making healthy food choices is important.  Highlight the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables by teaching children that their body needs nutrients in the form of food to fuel their body. It is also important to teach children the consequences of making unhealthy food choices such as becoming an unhealthy weight, sickness, and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Another way to reduce the risk of childhood obesity is to increase physical activity. Limit your child’s screen time. It is important for your child to be physically active for a least 60 minutes per day. Be the example by leading an active lifestyle. Make it a family affair by taking a walk or a bike ride with your child. Take your child to the park, community baseball fields, or basketball courts. Provide your child with equipment that encourages physical activity such as a basketball, bicycle, or roller skate.

It is also important that children get adequate sleep. Adequate amounts of sleep contribute to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Lack of adequate sleep contributes to high blood pressure, depression, overweight and obesity.

Some ways to encourage good sleep include establishing a consistent bedtime routine.  This routine should begin at the same time every night. The routine should include dimming the lights, stop the use of electronics at least one hour prior to bedtime, limit caffeine, warm bath, engaging in quiet activities such as reading a short book.

Childhood obesity is continuing to rise. It is important to prevent or reduce the risk of childhood obesity by establishing healthy eating patterns, encouraging regular physical activity, and ensuring that children are getting enough sleep. Talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about your child’s weight.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2022).  Prevalence of Childhood obesity in the United

          States. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

Nagata, J. M., Cortez, C. A., Cattle, C. J., et al (2022). Screen time use amoung US adolescents during the

          COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2785686