Archive for June, 2011

National Childhood Obesity Facts, Figures and a Solution to End the Epidemic

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Childhood obesity is a major concern in the United States. Over the past few decades there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children suffering from obesity. Kids are staying indoors more with limited physical activity and increased caloric consumption, resulting in a nationwide epidemic of obesity in our children. There are hundreds of organizations, large and small, fighting to stem this trend and help get our kids’ health back in check. But a business or non-profit can’t do it alone. Parents and kids must both be willing to change their habits to create a healthier lifestyle.

Causes of Childhood Obesity
There are many causes for childhood obesity, and sometimes a complex combination of circumstances work together to put our children at risk. One thing we know for sure is that reduced physical activity in school is a component and a risk factor for childhood obesity. Studies have shown that throughout our nation, less than one third of school-aged children (age 6-17) engage in physical activity – that is, activity that makes them sweat and increase breathing and heart rate for at least 20 minutes. And that’s just the minimum recommended amount of physical activity. There is no surprise here that childhood obesity has become a frightening epidemic in our country.

Risks of Child Obesity

  • High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: High levels of “bad” cholesterol called LDL and also high blood pressure are common in obese children.
  • Bone and Joint Problems: There have been numerous cases of obese children experiencing a slipped growth plate in their hip bone.
  • Sleep Apnea: Obstruction of the child’s airway is common and can result in many other day-to-day problems like poor school performance and nighttime bedwetting on top of the primary risk where the individual stops breathing in their sleep.
  • Psychological Problems: Probably the most severe risk of obesity in kids is their emotional and psychological health. Kids will develop poor self-esteem and accept the fact that they will be obese their entire lives, making it extremely difficult for them to change their lifestyle in later years.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: What used to be only of concern in adults and very rare in children is not a major concern for obese kids.

Child Obesity Statistics

  • Prevalence of Obesity: Among children ages 6-11, there was a 6.5% rate of obesity in 1980 which increased to 18.6% by 2008. Ages 12-19 increased from 5% to 18.1% in the same time period.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: 70% of obese children from 5-17 years have at least one symptom and risk factor of cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Low-Income Obesity: 1 of 7 low income children in preschool is obese.
  • 13 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese.
  • Obese adolescents are 80% more likely to end up as obese adults.
  • Healthcare expenses directly related to childhood obesity are $14 billion every year.

One Solution to the Epidemic: Quality PE in Schools
The problem of childhood obesity is urgent – changes need to be made immediately. Children need positive influences from the adults around them to make better choices. And who better to provide that than a physical education teacher? In general, children attend about 5 or 6 hours of school, 5 days per week. Physical education classes might take up about an hour per day. Imagine the good that could be done for children if that time was optimized with fun, challenging, and healthy activity.

Implementing quality PE in children’s school schedule would be a great first step to turning this epidemic around. PE classes should be used to really teach children about how important a healthy lifestyle is. We can reverse the stigma about PE classes being boring, awkward, and repetitive by breathing new life into old games and activities. Children can learn that challenging themselves and staying healthy are great for self-esteem and making new friends. Teachers should be passionate about their purpose, and lead by positive example.

When students are able to connect with teachers and create a respectful relationship, they are highly more likely to engage in activities and try their hardest. With energetic and fun teachers, a challenging and exciting curriculum, and education about the crucial importance of physical activity and healthy eating, children will take fitness seriously. We will improve the PE in our schools, and let our children reap the benefits.

10 Reasons Summertime Shouldn’t Be Spent Sitting Indoors

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Summer is here and far too many people have been sitting indoors all winter and spring and need to get out of the rut. The best way to turn your life around 180-degrees  is to step outside this summer and spend some more time with nature. The sun’s healing powers are very real and you will feel like a new person if you commit to getting outside every single day to enjoy the sunshine. Here are 10 great reasons why you should get out of the house this summer.

6-8 football run

Summer is a great time to spend the day playing outside with friends. Get a group of together and throw around a football, baseball or a frisbee at your neighborhood park.

1. Vitamin D – Summer means there will be plenty of sunshine around and if you are someone who sits indoors all the time then you are probably deficient in vitamin D. Go fill up your tank with tons of great vitamin D by spending summer in the great outdoors. Vitamin D can help in numerous ways: strengthens bones, strengthens immune system, decreases depression, prevents disease, and even increases lifespan.

2. Physical fitness – The best time of year to pick up a new sport is summer time. Get out and start jogging, swimming, playing football in the park, or anything that gets your body moving. The small effort to be active this season will pay huge dividends for your health, weight, and how you feel overall.

3. Personal relationships – All of your friends are heading outdoors for the summer. It is the perfect time of year to rekindle relationships and build new ones by going out socializing. Group sports, camping, and beach-going are just a few ways to spend some quality time with friends under the sun.

4. Baseball season – America’s pastime is back in full swing, and what better way to spend time outdoors than supporting your home team and going to a live game. Turn that TV off, call some friends, and head down to your local ballpark where you can appreciate both your team and the amazing summer weather at the same time.

5. Vacation time – Whether you have been saving up that one week or have several weeks of vacation time ready to use, this summer is a perfect excuse to use it. Take a week off and head to some mountains where you can enjoy hiking, fishing, and biking. If you are looking to relax, spend your vacation on the coast. Better yet, sign up for a 10k or half/full marathon you have always wanted to do and take your vacation around that event.

6. Beaches and lakes are warm – The water is warming up and the sun is heating up the sand which means it is time to head to the nearest water. It can be a fun lake nearby or the beautiful beaches of San Diego. Both are a fun place to hang out in the summer. You will be happy you got yourself out of the house when you are waterskiing or surfing with all of your friends.

7. Better sleep – Getting outdoors and exercising or just being active will help burn some energy that will then result in a better night’s sleep once you are back home. It has been proven that people who spend more time outdoors sleep much more soundly than people who sit inside all day.

8. Increased oxygenation – Breathing in the fresh air actually has health benefits. When you spend time outdoors, it increases your body’s oxygenation and therefore your blood circulation. Better blood circulation results in more energy and increased mental awareness. So if you want to think more clearly, go outside and get some more blood pumping into your brain.

9. Relieve stress from the winter – A lot of people have been cooped up indoors throughout the winter and even spring time. Stress builds up and depression sinks in when you have been in a dark house for too long. When you go outside and take a breath of fresh air you will instantly feel less stress and have a happier outlook on the day.

10. Improved eyesight – Staring at a computer or TV takes a toll on your eyes and you can reverse those effects by spending time outdoors. When your eyes can focus on a large landscape instead of a small screen, it reduces their nearsightedness which is why most people need glasses.