When I worked as a pediatric floor nurse, we had a few overweight children hospitalized with what used to only be adult medical problems. Children were being admitted for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and even strokes.
All of these medical issues seemed related to the children being overweight. Unfortunately, the issue of overweight kids seems to have gotten worse in recent years. In a study done in 2012, 25 percent of children age 2 to 5 were overweight or obese. The rates were even worse in school-age kids, all the way through high school. The rate of overweight or obese school-age students was about 33 percent.
The things the overweight hospitalized children had in common were things overweight adults tended to have in common. In speaking with the children and their families, it turned out that the hospitalized children basically had unhealthy lifestyles.
Experts are predicting that many of today's children will not outlive their parents unless something is done to curb childhood obesity. Parents should consider making these simple lifestyle changes to help save the lives of their children. The lifestyle changes listed may not be new information for adults, but they are more important than ever for children.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Many of the children who had heart disease or stroke issues had two working parents, sometimes working multiple jobs. The parents didn't feel they had time to make dinner, so they opted for fast food. Even if you are short on time, there are convenient canned meals and frozen dinners that can be much healthier choices than fast food.
Healthier food options (even if canned or frozen) often cost less than fast food and you should be able to easily find choices with fruits or vegetables in them. Taking some time to explore easy-to-prepare, healthier options would help your child have a healthier diet.
Because many schools have stopped physical education classes, if you don't help your kids get some exercise, then they probably won't get any exercise at all. Consider something like walking or biking for at least 30 minutes, three to five days a week.
If walking or biking is not an option, try to find an activity you can enjoy with your children. Even if you use online exercise videos or a video exercise game (one of my friends lost more than 20 pounds this way), you should exercise with your child. Keep in mind that children copy their parents with regard to diet and exercise. If you're not doing something, chances are good they won't do it either.
Get Enough Sleep
With both parents working and children with days and nights full of extracurricular activities, families are often running from one activity to the next. Add a hefty dose of homework on top of this, and you have the makings of a sleep-deprived, overweight child.
Making sure that kids get at least eight hours of sleep a night will help them keep the weight off. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain.
Children need to start their day with a healthy breakfast. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast perform better throughout the day and are less prone to being overweight.
Making simple lifestyle changes will give your children a better chance at a long and healthy life. Kids need to be healthy—their future depends on it.
To check on how your children are doing with their heights and weights, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's growth charts.