There have been more reports on the increasing cases of obesity in children recently. On average 1 in 10 children are now obese by the time they start primary school, and it is estimated that by 2050 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of all children in the UK will be obese.
Cases of type 2 diabetes is already increasing in children throughout the country. One problem that is thought to be causing the increase in obesity rates is the misconception that many parents have of “puppy fat“, i.e. the belief that extra fat on young children is healthy, and that they will eventually shed the fat as they grow older. The fact is, puppy fat is something that babies have. From the time children are on their feet and walking they should not be carry excess fat, and certainly not at the age of 4 years an over.
Here we look at some of the problems of childhood obesity, the causes and some treatments, from exercise and diets to government intervention and surgery.
Junk Food and Sugar Biggest Problem
With the prevalence of junk food and refined flours and sugars in our diets, “puppy fat” is not lost as children grow up. In almost all cases where children are overweight or obese at a young age, they remain overweight and obese into their teenage years and into adulthood.
By the time obese children reach 12 years old, they can start to show signs of illnesses typically common amongst overweight adults – increased blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol and fats.
By their early teens some start to develop type 2 diabetes, which has many serious long-term health implication such as blindness, limb amputation and generally takes decades off life expectancy.
Today nearly 25% of all under 5 years olds are either overweight or obese. The causes of obesity vary, but some studies have shown the finished breastfeeding early or consuming a diet high in sugar and refined flours are likely to lead to obesity.
Poor Diet Leads to a Lifetime of Poor Health
Poor diet at an early age can affect the lifetime health and fitness, and we are currently brining up a whole generation which are likely to suffer many of the illnesses associated with the obesity epidemic.
Finally, research has shown that the longer a child remains overweight, the less likely it is that they will ever reach a healthy weight again.
We must attempt to avert the forthcoming crisis that is the obesity epidemic, and to do that, parents must realise that overweight children are unhealthy, and will mostly likely have a shorter life expectancy and less fulfilling lives as a result.
Junk food, sugar, refined flours and fizzy drinks should be occasional treats, and not the staple foods of school lunch boxes and family dinners.
Never To Late To Change
It is never too early to monitor a child’s weight. Every parent should have their little red book from birth, which shows whether a child is overweight, or underweight.
Parents need to be encouraged to use these tools that they are given. And parents need to understand that “puppy fat” is a myth, and a fat boy is not a “strong boy”, but a weak and unhealthy boy.
Watching Too Much TV Can Be Bad For Children
There are so many causes of obesity in children, just as there are in adults too. Television and computer games are certainly 2 big problems.
In 2007 researchers at the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Centre in Seattle concluded that children under two years old should not be allowed to watch TV for any length of time, whereas older children should not watch TV for more than two hours a day.
This is because according to the research, every hour a child spends watching TV can contribute to a 10% increase possibility of a child developing attention deficit disorder. The researchers have observed 1345 children watching TV for three hours a day and concluded it led to a 30% increased changes of developing attention deficit disorder.
Newborn Brain Development Damaged By Television
According to Dr Dimitri Christakis the brains of newborn babies are constantly developing at a very rapid rate during the first two to three years of life, therefore television can over stimulate the brain of newborns, as it releases too much information during a short period of time.
Over stimulation of the brain at a young age through television can lead to future problems at school, as school activities and homework require much less stimulation, which the child is not used to, as television programs for young children change image very quickly in order to keep children interested.
Increased Risk of Developing Concentration Problems
The research involved asking parents how often their children watch television, then the children’s behaviour at age seven was compared to the diagnosis of attention deficit disorders. The children who watched most television at a very early age had 10% more chance of developing concentration problems, impulsiveness, restlessness as well as being easily confused.
Children Under Three Need To Watch Less Television
The researchers of the University of Washington say that it is not clear how much television children under three can watch safely, but each hour spent in front of the television increases the risk of a child developing attention deficit disorder.
The number of children with attention deficit disorder in the US is between 3 and 5 percent, but the researchers confessed that it is hard to tell if children with attention problems are more prone to be attracted to the television anyway. Also parents’ views of their children behaviour may not be absolute accurate, which can affect the outcome of the research.
Children Are Being Spoilt Rotten
In April 2010 a BBC Panorama documentary looked at the state of child health in the UK. Due to increasingly worse diets in the home the current generation of children are likely to have lower life expectancies than their parents. This is the first time in human history that this is the case.
In every case of child illness that Panorama looked into, the parents were to blame for giving their child too much of the wrong food. Many children are suffering from severe tooth decay even before they get to school age, with operations to remove up to 8 milk teeth at a time becoming standard practice in one Liverpool hospital. Usually the cause for this is toddlers drinking milk from a bottle before bed and not cleaning their teeth afterwards, or children that have a bottle to suck on all day. Sweets are also another problem.
Obesity was also looked at. In the case shown a 5 year old boy had the weight expected for a 17 year old boy. His mother thought that his condition was genetic and claimed that he did not eat much at all. However, when the cameras were set up to watch their eating habits, in one 2 hour period he ate 2 pieces of chocolate cake, a bowl of cereal with fruit, and a plate of mash potatoes, peas and breaded fish.
When his mother was confronted about this the response was all too familiar. She thought that the food was healthy, therefore it could not possibly be the cause of weight gain. All too often people think that you cannot eat too much healthy food, and worse, think that many food are healthy choices then they are not. Cereals are often full of sugar and refined carbs, then covered in “low fat” milk, which increases the sugar content further. The fruits on top, although healthy, are high in calories and fructose.
Even with more and more media campaigns, from Jamie Oliver to the UK government backed Change For Life campaign, parents are still not getting the message. Only when parents have to take their children to hospital for obesity issues, rotting teeth or passive smoking related illnesses do they start to realize the terrible harm they have done to their children’s health. For most, this is too little too late, as the damage is already done.
Exercise Alone Will Not Help Obese Children
Once again scientists are publishing research (this time in the Archives of Disease in Childhood) that confirms that a lack of exercise is not the cause of obesity. For many years people have been told to get their children more active to help them lose weight. However, the real reason is poor diet.
Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness
A study carried out by researchers at Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, UK, found that obese children become less active as a result of being severely overweight. The children studied put on weight first and then reduced the amount of exercise they did, because their weight hindered them. This is the reverse of what many people assume. A common lack of understanding usually means that the children afflicted with obesity remain obese because their diet is never tackled. Exercise, or a lack of, is blamed for them being overweight, but exercise is not the guilty party, it is diet.
“A new report from the EarlyBird Diabetes Study suggests that physical activity has little if any role to play in the obesity epidemic among children. Obesity is the key factor behind diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The implications are profound for public health policy, because the physical activity of children (crucial to their fitness and well-being) may never improve unless the burgeoning levels of childhood obesity are first checked. If this cannot be achieved through physical activity, the focus has to be on what – and how much – children consume.” Source: www.pms.ac.uk
One of the problems that we are facing is that many people feel that it is wrong to tell a child to go on a diet to lose weight. Adults are so worried that children will develop an under-eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia if they are told they are overweight that they never suggest that a child needs to eat less to lose weight. The situation seems to have got out of hand and common sense gone out of the window. The sooner more adults and especially parents understand the relationship between diet and obesity, and the relationship between obesity and fatal disease such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, the quicker children will start to be healthy again.
What advice should be given to children? The answer is simple – the same “advice” that most adults had, that is, do not eat sweets, sugar, candy, cakes, soda and junk food. Most adults that are having children today, grew up during the 1970′s and 1080′s when junk food was still very much an occasional treat.
More often than not, when a child wanted candy, a parent would have to say no as they simply could not afford to buy junk food every day. Times have changed. There may have been a global economic disaster, but the average person still has enough surplus cash to buy an assortment of sugar laden junk to feed to their kids.
One theory is that once a child becomes slightly overweight they are excluded from sports activities at school, which leads to a state of childhood depression and loss of self esteem that ultimately means that they give up caring and just eat for comfort. This is really exactly the same process that happens to adults, but for children it is much harder to deal with as they rarely have anyone that they feel they can turn to for advice. Many children want to become more active, but team sports are generally given most time in school so that the less fit have fewer opportunities to develop talent. Sports coaches often focus on those that are already showing some talent and sideline the weaker or fatter children.
So what needs to be done?
- Better education on child nutrition – sugar is bad, fat is not
- More opportunities for children to get involved in exercise and sport – introduce martial arts and dance to schools. Give kids the option.
- Encourage children to eat a healthy diet, educate them early about why being overweight is bad. Children are not stupid, if they are told something is really bad and it will kill them they do not do it!
It is worth pointing out that other research published in the last year has shown that diet alone does not help people lose weight effectively. Children however may respond differently as they tend to have a higher resting metabolism. Really everyone should be eating less, eating healthier and exercising more. This is the only way to reverse the obesity epidemic.
Obese Kids Say No To Gastric Surgery
In a 2009 study in the UK, over 50% of obese children that were offered gastric bypass surgery refused it. The general reason for refusal was that it is cheating to lose weight with surgery. Children often know that it is wrong to be so overweight, and they really want to do something about it, but not to cheat their way to being slim.
Most children would prefer to get their lives back on track to being healthier and more active, and to lose weight by eating a calorie controlled diet and exercising on a regular basis.
The best solution would be for more services to help children to lose weight. Adults have many programs that they can join, albeit all commercial, and also a wide range of sports clubs and gyms. Children to a large extent are expected to rely on school fitness programs or to take themselves out of play in the park. If the schools are failing children, then there needs to be more commercial fitness clubs that receive government subsidies to take children in.
In Australia where the obesity crisis is less severe, it is common to see school children using private facilities during the week, such as golf courses, or to see them on public land, such as the beach. In many schools in the UK and USA this does not happen, as the local councils do not have the partnerships with local businesses, and health and safety rules keep children within school grounds.
It seems that games consoles and cable television really are only part of the obesity problem. Children are aware of how their bodies are changing, and are refusing to have operations to “put it right”. Many of the children questioned in the recent study gave large portion size and junk food as being the main reason for being overweight. What our children need are more ways for them to participate in healthy activities both while in and out of school, and more resources to healthy eating. But above all, adults need to take more care in controlling what children eat. Large portions of food is not a sign of wealth and success, it is a sign of ignorance and leads to serious illness.
This is certainly interesting news. Children consider a gastric band to be cheating. Few adults think like this when offered the opportunity.
Change 4 Life Action Plan For Children
In February 2011 I was invited by Change4Life to complete their questionnaire to find out which swaps my family could do to improve health. We recently wrote about the Change4Life health voucher scheme that is designed to encourage people to make healthier choices when shopping and touched on the Great Swapathon.
A few days after completing the questionnaire for my two children, aged 1 year and 3 1/2, I received an email directing me to the Change4Life website. The reply started thanking me for participating and then went on to explain how the Action Plan works.
Then they gave me a summary of the results:
“Based on your answers, we’ve highlighted the 2 habits which would be the most useful for your family to look at first. These can be found in the ‘Your family’s plan’ section at the top of this page. We’ll be in touch with more advice about the other 6 habits. This should make it easier for you and your family to Change4Life, bit by bit.”
For my eldest son, it suggested:
Me Size Meals
“Even though kids are growing, it’s important to give them just the right amount – not too much and not too little. And remember – their portions shouldn’t be as big as adults’. It’s better to give them a small portion to start with and let them ask for more if they’re still hungry.”
This is good advice, although I am not sure why this was a warning as my son is a really healthy weight and we never give him more than he needs.
Good news was that his fat intake is good, he is active, he does not eat much sugar and has regular meals. Although there was a snack alert. This mostly came up because I did the questionnaire on one of his pre-school days, and they often give the children a snack in the morning.
For my youngest, I was informed that he was not active enough.
“It looks like Tobey might spend too much time sitting down. This means her body stores up fat instead of burning it off, so time to get her moving!”
He only started walking a couple of weeks ago so I think that he is actually doing really well. He even climbed the stairs by himself (supervised) and can crawl as a pretty good pace. The questionnaire did not ask if he was walking yet, so this is a bit harsh actually.
The questionnaire also threw up the “me sized meals” warning, which again, is not very accurate as Tobey is only 13 months old and is definitely not over-eating. I am starting to think that this is just a general warning that they give to everyone, because almost everybody overeats these days. Some feedback on this would be good though.
Your Family’s Plan
In addition to the advice for the children, Change4Life also provide a family plan.
5 A Day
The first advice was the 5 a day. This is something I probably struggle with some days. I am intolerant to almost all soft fruits, so often avoid any fruit other than grapes, oranges and bananas. So I should make an extra effort to make sure there are always grapes or oranges in the house. We do generally cook and have 2 vegetables with the meal, and I often have a vegetable soup for my other meal.
There was another warning about portion sizes.
“Don’t fall into the trap of nagging the kids to eat up everything that’s on their plates. Our parents might have done it to us – but it’s actually healthier to serve them a smaller portion and let them ask for more, than to give them a big portion that they can’t manage.”
This is difficult, as some mornings my eldest son would be happy to skip breakfast completely if we did not encourage him a little, and we all know how important breakfast is for healthy growth and development.
Change4Life Activities In Your Local Area
Change4Life is a UK only scheme. One good feature that surprised me was the MyLocalArea page which provides information on healthy activities that is close to where I live, in Essex. There is a search function that searches by post code, and you can select any of the following categories:
- Team sports
- General sports
- Family life
- Non-sport activities & classes
- Disability sports & classes
- Martial arts
I ticked all the boxes as I was very curious to find out what activities are available in my area. I search for all activities within 50 miles of Maldon to try to cover all of Essex (for those living in Essex there is a page dedicated to fitness and health in Essex). They do have a lot of sports and fitness clubs listed. All clubs are listed in order of proximity to the post code or town that you enter. However, it only shows 10 result on each page, so it is better to restrict your searches to one category at a time.
There are some good clubs missing from their database though. I did a search for martial arts clubs within 10 miles of Basildon and 5 Elements Martial Arts is not included, and this is one of the best clubs in Essex.
They do list team sports clubs though, which is a really good feature, as often it is hard to find listing of general sports clubs that you can apply to join. What is missing of course is a search for weight training / weight lifting clubs. They do list fitness clubs, but often these days fitness clubs do not provide a walk in / day rate fee for people that just want to use free weights. Many of the clubs listed are commercial clubs. such as Virgin Active and Fitness First.
Essex has some very good gym services that do not require annual membership, such as the weights room at the Chelmsford Athletic Club and Dovedale Sports Centre. These should be highlighted before the commercial gyms really.
Overall the Change4Life site provides some simple information on how to make a few small changes to live a healthier life. If anything it is a bit too simplistic in places and could do with providing more details diet and nutrition information.
Successful Weight Loss Program For Kids in America
It has been a long time coming, but it seems that health scientists in America have managed to develop a weight loss program for obese children that actually worked in the long term.
Getting children to lose some weight is not actually all that difficult, when they are under constant supervision and have their activity and diet carefully managed. The hard part has always been getting them to continue with the new diet and lifestyle after they leave the fit camp.
A group of scientists from Yale University, The Children’s University Hospital in Dublin, Skåne University Hospital in Sweden and the University of New Haven collaborated to determine whether or not it is possible for a weight management program to continue to benefit children for a 24 month (2 year) period.
In the study 209 obese children from a range of ethnic groups were randomly assigned one of 2 weight loss methods:
- Intensive Lifestyle Intervention
- Clinic Control Group
The clinic control group just received counselling every 6 months whereas the intervention group received a family-based program, which included exercise, nutrition, and behavior modification.
Lifestyle intervention sessions started on a twice weekly basis, then reduced to twice a month after 6 months, then for the last 12 months there was no intervention.
The results of the weight loss experiment showed that after 12 months the lifestyle intervention group maintained weight loss with much greater success than the control group. Teaching children and their parents about the importance of good diet and regular exercise really did help to keep people on track. Education and information are useful tools in combating obesity and with parental support some cases of childhood obesity can be reversed.
Contributing Research Institutions:
- Yale School of Medicine
- The Children’s University Hospital in Dublin
- Skåne University Hospital in Sweden
- University of New Haven
Children Need Interesting Fruit For Better Health
It is an age old question: How do you encourage children to eat healthy fruit and vegetables? The answer is to make them exciting.
In a recent study of children’s eating habits carried out in the Netherlands and Belgium, researchers found that children are far more likely to eat a fruit if it is presented to them in an interesting and colorful way.
In the study the researchers gave children aged from four to seven years a mixture of apples, strawberries and grapes presented in a variety of ways. When the presentation was fun, children ate almost twice as much of the fruit. In the most boring presentation the fruit was given chopped up on a plain plate. This did not prove to be very popular. When the fruits were diced and stuck onto the outside of a watermelon with cocktail stick and made to look like a hedgehog the children devoured the fruits in an excited frenzy.
It was suggested the supermarkets could help by making fruit more exciting in the same way that fast food chains make children’s meals interesting. Just by adding toys or collectible stickers to fruit produce consumption could be increased. However, the best way is really for parents and schools to make a greater effort to present the food in a way that is more appealing to children.
Esther Jansen who lead the team of researchers emphasized that food producers and parents need to be more adventurous and innovative when it comes to preparing food for children.
“The results indicated that visual appeal had a strong effect on consumption of the fruit. With respect to restriction, no effects were found. Parents, schools, supermarkets and food producers should take advantage of these results, and offer children fruit and vegetables that are presented in a visually appealing manner.”
So many children are fussy eaters and refuse to touch healthy food, preferring animal shaped piece of processed chicken in breadcrumbs instead. By making fresh fruit and vegetables more fun children will eat more and become healthier. This could result in a positive impact on their overall health, concentration in class and may even help to reverse the obesity epidemic.
The research was published in the journal Appetite which specializes in behavioral nutrition.
Drinking Milk Helps You Live Longer
A follow up study carried out by scientists at the University of Bristol and Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research, published in Heart, has shown that children that consume more dairy products, such as milk and cheese, show lower risk from heart disease and stroke later on in life.
Even though dairy products contain a lot of fat, and can potentially increase cholesterol levels, long term health is in fact much better amongst those that had a lot of milk and cheese when in childhood. The 65-year follow up of a study into the eating habits of families carried out in the 1930s found that dairy products and diet high in calcium made a difference to how long people lived.
This is further proof that the low fat diets that so many people preach, for health and weight loss, are just not based on any strong facts. Consuming fats is not always bad for us. Dr. Atkins was a great believer in eating a natural diet rich in fats and proteins. This studies also follows on from research that showed that the fats found in margarine can actually cause bowel cancer. The proof that unnatural diets, with high carbohydrate and sugar, and low in fat, are not actually doing us as much good as we all thought.
In the study, families that consumed a lot of milk managed to cut mortality by 25%. Just half a pint of milk everyday could cut stroke by 60%
Not a lot of dairy is required to you to consume the daily recommended portion, just:
- 200ml glass of milk (About 1/3 pint)
- A pot of yogurt
- A small piece of cheese
“Children whose family diet in the 1930s was high in calcium were at reduced risk of death from stroke. Furthermore, childhood diets rich in dairy or calcium were associated with lower all-cause mortality in adulthood. Replication in other study populations is needed because other factors, such as socioeconomic differences, explains part of these findings.” Professor Richard Martin, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Bristol
However, Joanne Murphy of The Stroke Association still advocates the low fat, high sugar approach to diet:
“This is an interesting study, but we need to take a further look to really assess the benefits of milk in reducing the chances of dying from stroke. In the meantime, we advise parents to opt for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat and salt for the overall health of their children.” Joanne Murphy, The Stroke Association, 2009.
The jury is still out concerning the link between cancer and dairy, as studies have proved inconclusive. Some studies have seen a decrease in cancer, and some an increase.
The most important thing to remember is to have a well balanced diet, and this must include a healthy levels of fats from dairy as well as meat, fish, nuts and seeds.
Are Your Children Exercising Enough, Or Are They Couch Kids?
In November 2009 the British Heart Foundation found that most parents are not aware that their children are not doing enough exercise. Many parents have misconceptions about how much exercise is required for a child to stay fit and healthy, with many assuming that weekly sports lessons at school is enough. They published their findings under the name of Couch Kids.
Guidelines are for children to be active for 1 hour per day in addition to any school sports or games activities. However, only 10% of children manage to do the recommended amount of exercise every day. Most come home from school and then sit down to watch television, eat and do homework, and then have dinner, before watching more television (or playing computer games) before bed.
The number of obese children has risen dramatically over the last 10 years but nothing has been done to promote more exercise. Research suggesting that exercise does not help you lose weight does not help to convince parents that more exercise is a good thing either.
The British Heart Foundation is calling for the government to make some important changes to its child health policy, including:
- Guidelines on recommended levels of physical activity for all age groups
- Schools maximising the opportunities for physical activity
- Collection of data about physical activity levels across the UK by local authorities and national governments
The current guidelines for physical activity do not make it clear what children from 8-15 should be doing each week. Also, many schools have not been supported well enough by the government with respect to physical education. Many schools have seen their playing fields diminish, and some inner city schools do not even have access to any playing fields at all.
“Mums and dads need to take the blinkers off about how active kids need to be in order to keep their hearts healthy. Kids need to get moving more, yet we’ve been standing still for the last decade. Children aren’t really any more active than they were 10 years ago.” Dr Mike Knapton, British Heart Foundation.
How Long Should Children Do Physical Activity For?
This is the British Heart Foundation’s advice on physical activity for children:
Children and young people should aim to participate in physical activity for 60 minutes every day. They need to do a moderate intensity activity, like walking, dancing, games, swimming, cycling, active play and most sports. It’s also recommended that they take part in activities which enhance and maintain muscular strength, flexibility and bone health at least twice a week, such as climbing, skipping, jumping or gymnastics.
They don’t need to do the whole hour at once, and it can be split over the day. They could do four 15-minute blocks, or three blocks of 20 minutes – as long as they get their full hour of physical activity, it doesn’t matter when they do it.
You can incorporate this into their daily life easily – walk with them to and from school, encourage them to participate in PE lessons, enjoy active play with friends at break times and arrange for them to play sport or take part in structured exercise out of school.
But is the British Heart Foundation placing too much emphasis on the government and local councils to take action to get children more active again? Children generally follow what their parents do, especially under the age of 10. If parents were encouraged to be more active, to take more walks or cycle, then their children would naturally follow. Society has changed in the last 20 years. The media has made many parents live in fear of allowing their children the room to explore their neighborhood by themselves. But what is the solution?
Unfortunately there are not a lot of activities that a family can easily do together. Walking is a good option, but for many cycling or even playing soccer is a problem due to lack of safe open spaces in many places. Society needs to change. Government needs to change. Schools need support from government and parents. How we bring about this change is a really complex issue. Although Nike would say, Just Do It.
Activities To Help Get Children Fit
A survey published in September 2009 showed that 1 in 3 children get less than 1 hour of exercise each week. Children now spend far more time on Facebook, Twitter or playing video games than doing any physical activities. A combination of technology and parents fear of allowing their children to explore by themselves is keeping kids indoors all year, rain or shine.
If current trends continue half of all children will be obese by 2050, and this will mark the first generation in written history where children will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Lack of exercise is one of the key factors to developing heart disease, which is still the biggest killer.
So, how can we encourage children to exercise more? The answer is really to do more family activities, and get the whole family enjoying outdoor and healthy activities together. Here are our top fitness tips for kids.
Like adults children need to ensure that their fitness includes elements of strength training, endurance and flexibility.
There really are a lot of activities that families can do together. Here is our top 10:
- Cycling - Cycling is a fun family activity. If you have some parkland near you, then spending an afternoon just exploring is a great way to get fit. Some parks will hire bikes, and young children can ride with stabilizers.
- Playing in the Park - climbing etc. Many parks have children play areas, and climbing on the monkey bars is an excellent way for a child to build strength. Stronger bones are essential for good health and will mean that they remain stronger in later life.
- Baseball / cricket - Playing by adult rules is not the best idea, it can work better to modify the rules for the family. This is a great team sport that gets the whole family active. Rounders or softballs are other good options.
- Inline Skating. Another fun park activity. Take the kids out to a park with some good quality and smooth paths (ideally asphalt) and you can spend hours just cruising around.
- Basketball. If you have the space to put a hoop up in your backyard, then some fun family challenges are a great way to get fit. Jumping, stretching, turning – all great exercises.
- Soccer - as soccer is a non-contact sport the whole family can play together. Chasing the ball for half an hour is an excellent endurance training.
- Swimming - one of the healthiest forms of exercise, and it could prove to be a life saver one day. Although some reports recently have theorized a connection between swimming in chlorinated water and asthma.
- Tennis / badminton - you need a court, but very easy to play a family game of doubles and good fun too. Excellent all round strength, flexibility and endurance exercise.
- Walking - Simple but effective. Take the family out to the countryside, do some hill walking or coastal trekking and build stronger legs and boost cardiovascular endurance.
- Running and jogging - Running is a natural and great exercise. It is hard to do normal running as a family unit, but you could try orienteering activities to make the event fun for all.
The key to getting kids health and active again is to lead by example. Also, children must feel like they are playing. If you make the games too competitive this will put children off. They must be fun so that everyone can enjoy, win or lose!
Child obesity is a terrible condition that is still getting worse. It seems that no amount of research and education is making any difference. The only promising news is that an America exercise intervention scheme seemed to improve the situation. However, many people strongly oppose any form of intervention, claiming that it is their child’s right to eat what they want and do not exercise.
Only by changing the attitudes of parents can we reverse this problem, and unfortunately, the parents are often at the root of the problem.
Is Obesity Viral? Children Carrying Antibodies Put On More Weight
Recent research into Obesity by the University of California has discovered that children carrying antibodies to a specific virus on average weigh 15.8kg (35 pounds) more than children who do not carry the antibody. This would indicate that a virus lead to weight gain.
Similar theories has been proposed before but the evidence has never stood up to strict scientific testing due to inconsistent data.
In the study 124 children from the age of 8 to 18 were examined, half of which were obese (with a body mass index over the 95th percentile). Those who were obese were found to often carry antibodies to the adenovirus 36.
Lead researcher Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, MD, thinks that this study has shown that many obese people really are not entirely to blame for their condition and could explain why some people in the same family put on a lot more weight than others even though everyone is following a similar diet.
“Many people believe that obesity is one’s own fault or the fault of one’s parents or family. This work helps point out that body weight is more complicated than it’s made out to be. And it is time that we move away from assigning blame in favor of developing a level of understanding that will better support efforts at both prevention and treatment. These data add credence to the concept that an infection can be a cause or contributor to obesity.” Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, Pediatrics.
However, it is important that people understand that although a viral infection may increase the likelihood of becoming obese, the cause of obesity remains the same – poor diet, over eating and lack of exercise. Even if you are more likely to become obese due to a medical condition this does not mean that you should not attempt to fight off obesity by living a healthier and more active life. The research was published in the journal Pediatrics:
Watching TV ‘is bad for children’ – BBC News, Tuesday, 6 April, 2004
“Long-term Results of an Obesity Program in an Ethnically Diverse Pediatric Population” by Mary Savoye, RD, CDE Paulina Nowicka, PhD, Melissa Shaw, BSb, Sunkyung Yu, MS, James Dziura, PhD, Georgia Chavent, MS, RD, Grace O’Malley, PT, MSc, John B. Serrecchia, BS, William V. Tamborlane, MD, Sonia Caprio, MD. Published online February 7, 2011 - PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2010-0697)
“How to promote fruit consumption in children. Visual appeal versus restriction.” Esther Jansen, Sandra Mulkens and Anita Jansen. Research carried out at Maastricht University, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Psychological Science, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands
“Childhood dairy and calcium intake and cardiovascular mortality in adulthood: 65-year follow-up of the Boyd Orr cohort” by J C van der Pols, D Gunnell, G M Williams, J M P Holly, C Bain, R M Martin. Heart 2009; doi 10.1136/hrt.2009.168716
Adenovirus 36 and Obesity in Children and Adolescents. by Charles Gabbert, Michael Donohue, John Arnold, and Jeffrey B. Schwimmer. Pediatrics, 2010.