The Importance of Children Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

It is very worrying to hear that 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese in Australia. This number has doubled in recent years, which for me is disturbing, due to the large amount of health problems associated with being overweight or obese. We fully understand these risks, however a lot of us seem to find it very hard to do something about it.

Some of the factors that have caused this higher incidence of overweight children are poor food choices (high fat and sugary foods), high sedentary periods (watching TV, playing computer games), overweight parents’ children learn poor eating patterns and lifestyle habits), and reduced physical activity. Adolescents who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, which can affect their ability at school and social interaction.

A high number of adolescents who are overweight or obese will be overweight or obese when they are adults as well and the risk of developing disease is greatly increased. In a recently published study that followed 1.6 million Swedish males from the years 1968 to 2005, the incidence of heart failure in middle age was much greater in those that were overweight or obese when they were teenagers 1. Furthermore, the risk of adulthood diabetes and hypertension increases greatly if a child is overweight or obese 2.

Basically, children put weight on because the energy that they ‘take in’ (food and drink) is greater than the energy ‘put out’ (exercise and physical activity).

Below are some simple ideas to help improve your child’s weight and health:

1) Limit sedentary activity like playing games, using computers, watching T.V. (these should be no more than 2 hours per day)
2) Offer fresh vegetables and fruit instead of processed snack foods.
3) Offer water when thirsty instead of sweet drinks (juice, cordial, soft drinks), which are high in sugar and can cause tooth decay
4) Use the car less. Walk or cycle to school, shops or fiends place if possible.
5) Be active together. Go for a walk, kick the ball in the park, cycle down the local pathway.
6) Act as a role model. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Also involve the whole family in healthy eating and activity.

If you are concerned that your child is overweight then it is best to seek an Exercise Physiologist and/or Dietician at Optimum whom can help plan and set goals for the whole family. If you develop the correct changes then you will reduce the risk that the child will make poor eating and dieting issues later in life. And just remember, when beginning or introducing anything new to a child, start slow!

1) Body weight in adolescence and long-term risk of early heart failure in adulthood among men in Sweden”, by Annika Rosengren et al. European Heart Journal
2) Sathanur R. Srinivasan, Weihang Bao, Wendy A. Wattigney, Gerald S. Berenson, Adolescent overweight is associated with adult overweight and related multiple cardiovascular risk factors: The Bogalusa Heart Study, Metabolism, Volume 45, Issue 2, 1996, P235-240.

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