- True or False – Childhood Obesity continues to increase across the country?
True: Canada, like many nations, is in the midst of an epidemic of overweight and obesity. Currently, 59% of adult Canadians are either overweight or obese. Cities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were significantly higher in overweight/obesity population than the national average for adults.
There has also been a dramatic increase in unhealthy weights in children. In 1978, only 15% of children were overweight or obese. By 2007, Statistics Canada found that 29% of adolescents had unhealthy weights. Most adolescents do not outgrow this problem and in fact, many continue to gain excess weight. If current trends continue, by 2040, up to 70% of adults aged 40 years will be either overweight or obese.
Adults who have unhealthy weights are at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, strokes and type 2 diabetes. In 2005, the total cost of obesity to Canadians was $4.3 billion; $1.8 billion in indirect healthcare costs, and $2.5 billion in indirect costs. Affected adults may die up to 3 to 7 years earlier than counterparts with a healthy weight.
It is rare for overweight and obesity to be caused by hormonal or genetic defects (Moran, 1999). So what is causing this increase in overweight and obesity? Although the most common reason for being overweight is clear (people eat more calories in food than they burn in exercise), the reasons for the dramatic, nationwide increase in overweight and obesity in children and adolescents are unclear (Troiano & Flegal, 1998). One theory is that as our society has become more successful, convenience foods that are high in fat and calories, such as candy, chips, and sugary drinks, are produced and consumed more frequently (Goran & Treuth, 2001). Another is that our children are leading more inactive life styles than in the past. Rather than playing outside, children watch television, play video games, and sit at the computer (Robinson & Killen, 2001). Although our technology may be advancing, our children are sitting more and exercising less.
Parents play a key role in making sure that adolescents exercise and eat well, and parental support is crucial if adolescents are to make changes in their weight. However, not all children will be able to maintain an ideal weight. It is important to put the focus on living a healthy lifestyle, rather than on attaining a particular weight.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggests that parents follow these suggestions:
- Recognize that you have more control than you might think: You can turn off the TV. You can give your family more vegetables during dinner. You can get off the bus earlier and walk.
- Think about the immediate benefits: Eat smaller portions or skip dessert and you won’t feel so full.
- Make small, easy changes over time: Begin taking walks after dinner, instead of watching television. Instead of eating frosted chocolate cake, begin eating sliced strawberries with angel food cake.
- Try a variety of strategies: Get children involved in grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals. Replace whole milk with skim milk.
- Make family goals, such as committing to eating healthy meals at least four times a week.
Another great way to get active is to get off the bus or drop your kids a couple of blocks before school and walk the rest of the way.
Many activities are deemed competitive and often scare kids from participating. Look outside the box and experience activities that you can enjoy as a family. Many fitness and recreation facilities offer family drop in discounts or even free days for the community to enjoy (YMCA Calgary Open Y day the third Sunday of every month.) Check out a fun family swim, badminton, table tennis, family zumba or yoga. Many programs such as Active Y Kids, Jr. Lifeguard Club, H20 Extreme, Capoeira and Parkour offer opportunities for kids to be active without the threat of feeling competitive. Can’t get outside, how about powering up the Wii and try a game of bowling? When all else fails, why not put on some music and groove in the kitchen. (If Obama family can do it, so can you!)
Watch for upcoming fun youth and family events at your local YMCA including Youth week April 22-28th and Healthy Kids Day, Sunday June 3rd.
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