Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Helping our Toddlers Avoid Obesity

With Michelle Obama leading the charge to end childhood obesity, this serious topic is getting more attention. A new study on the subject revealed what most parents already know – there are three easy steps to keeping our kids healthy and avoiding obesity. According to the US Preventative Service Task Force, eating together as a family more than five nights per week, sleeping at least 10 ½ hours on weeknights, and limiting television and video watching to no more than two hours on weekdays, will give your child a 40 percent lower prevalence of obesity.

While these recommendations are fairly obvious, finding the time in our busy, hectic schedules to actually make these things happen isn’t easy. But, it’s necessary. The study points out that since the 1970s, childhood and adolescent obesity has increased three to sixfold. Approximately 12% to 18% of 2- to 19-year-old children and adolescents are obese (defined as having an age- and gender-specific BMI at 95th percentile).

Obesity can lead to other health problems for your kids, including diabetes and heart disease. Getting them on track now with a healthy lifestyle will set them on a positive path for their entire lives. In addition, all three routines also provide other benefits. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, by eating with your children, it is more likely that meals will be healthier and more balanced.

They also point out that teens who rarely have family dinners are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or an illegal drug other than marijuana. Girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, which can range from skipping meals to full-fledged anorexia or abusing diet pills. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your children is one way to connect with them and be involved with what is happening in their lives. They are more apt to tell you when they face difficult challenges or temptations.

The second recommendation, getting enough sleep, can also be easier said than done. By the time everyone gets home from work and after-school activities, has finished the family dinner and homework, getting 10 1/2 hours of sleep can be tricky. Yet, kids who get a full night’s sleep are sharper during the day, have more energy to enjoy physical activities, and stay healthier overall.

The final recommendation, limiting television and video watching, will allow your kids to spend time doing other, more productive activities. Playing a family game, exercising, (check out the Hop 66 Ball) and reading, will all promote a healthy lifestyle.

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