"Obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents," said Brenda Cobb. "Mrs. Engert and I are both seeing more overweight children than when we first started teaching. Kids spend a lot more time indoors and in front of the television and computer instead of playing outside, and some aren't eating as healthy as they should."
Data from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) shows that the prevalence of obesity has increased from 1976 to 2006. For children ages 2-5 years, the prevalence has increased from 5% to 12.4%; children ages 6- 11 years, the prevalence increased from 6.5% to 17%; and for ages 12-19 years, it increased from 5% to 17.6%. In the state of Missouri, an estimated 15.6% of children are overweight. "These are statistics that we would like to see changed," said Engert, "because the consequences of obesity can show up as serious health problems, not only in adulthood but also in childhood. These include psychosocial risks, such as low self- esteem and social discrimination, cardiovascular disease, asthma, sleep apnea and type-2 diabetes."
One way to reverse this increase in childhood obesity is to teach prevention. "Fighting childhood obesity means eating healthier and being more active," said Cobb. "We stressed the importance of making healthy choices including eating a variety of foods from the five-food groups (grains, vegetables, fruit, milk and meat), lowering fat and cholesterol intake, and moderating sugar and salt intake. Healthy choices also include serving reasonably-sized portions and drinking plenty of water while limiting sugar-sweetened drinks. We encouraged parents to try to balance their calories and to remove calorie-rich temptations from their homes."
Another prevention tip that was shared with the parents was to help their kids to stay active and to reduce "screen" time. "Creating a fitness plan for the entire family can actually be a lot of fun," said Engert. "If you schedule a regular time to meet and let everyone take a turn selecting an activity, everyone can feel like they are contributing to the plan to get healthy. Another step towards a more healthy lifestyle is to reduce 'screen' time for kids and adults. Kids should know it is important to sit LESS and move MORE in order to stay healthy. By limiting the amount of time you and your kids sit in front of the computer, television or on gaming systems the more opportunities everyone will have to get out and exercise."
"The key to being successful in your efforts to improve the health and fitness of your children is to set a good example," said Cobb. "Set screen time limits, create screen-free bedrooms, turn off the television during family meal time, don't use the screen time as a reward or punishment, and provide healthier foods for meals and snacks."
A list of 101 Family Fitness Activities and web sites with fitness ideas can be found on the school district's website at: www.perryville.k12.mo.us.