Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Introduction to Childhood Obesity in Utah

Childhood obesity rates have sky rocketed in the last ten years. In fact, rates of childhood obesity have more than doubled since the late 1970's. At the end of 2005, 10% of 2- to 5-year-olds and more than 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 were considered overweight, and those rates have risen each year. One recent study within the state found that the percentage of overweight students increased with grade. In 2006, more than one in five elementary school students were at an unhealthy weight. If these trends continue, within ten years a total of 30.3% of elementary students in Utah will be at an unhealthy weight.

There are many factors causing this rapid increase in childhood obesity, and two of the main ones are sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits. Physical activity and nutritious eating are vital to reversing current trends, yet in 2005, 80% of Utah’s youth ate less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per week, and 64% of children did not meet recommended levels of physical activity. Approximately 77% of children did not receive a daily physical education class in school, and 39% did not receive any physical education class throughout the entire school year. Current data reveals that between the ages of 2 and 17, children in the US view on average over three years of their lives watching television. That is not including time spent viewing movies and playing video games or using a computer.

The current obesity rates are taking their toll, and will continue taking a toll into the future. Overweight children are at risk for serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol - diseases we used to consider as exclusively adult conditions. Obesity may be taxing emotionally and socially as well. Children who are unhappy with their weight may be more likely than average-weight children to develop unhealthy dieting habits and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and they may be more prone to low self esteem, substance abuse, and depression. Overweight children are also at an increased risk of developing conditions like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke as adults.

Luckily, we can reverse these trends, and that is the goal of Happy Healthy Kids. Visit this blog for ideas on how to increase your child's activity, and make healthy living a lifelong family goal. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Set an example: do things together as a family

2. Limit TV and video game time

3. Encourage fun activity, rather than exercises that may seem like punishment

4. Start Now!

For more great ideas on how to get your family active, visit: http://http//www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/FL/00030.html

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