By: Jason Lewis
The couch potato era has not only plagued American adults, two-thirds of whom are either considered overweight or obese, according to the Physical Activity Council. It has also significantly affected American children.
Sixteen percent of children 6-19 years old are overweight or obese, a number that has tripled since 1980, according to the Center for Disease and Prevention. Another 15 percent are considered at risk of becoming overweight. Adolescents who have weight issues have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. The likelihood increases to 80 percent when one or both of their parents are overweight or obese.
Unhealthy diets have been shown to lead to weight issues, but what may play a bigger role, according to certain studies, is the lack of exercise, whether it is from competing on a sports team, playing outside or just walking around. In many cases, children who are physically active are less likely to have weight issues than obese children who eat less than the active children. Given that many overweight children become overweight adults, it becomes even more crucial to promote youth fitness.
“It is important for them to build and shape their bodies while they are young,” said Naima Woodson, a certified children’s fitness and nutrition specialist and Founder and Director of Fit Kids 1st. “Those are the habits that they will create for their lifestyle. If they start to be exposed to different activities and just being active in general, those are the habits that they will grow up with.”
Woodson is a believer that 60 minutes of physical activity a day, which does not have to be done all at once, can greatly benefit a child’s fitness and health level. She pinpoints a few problems that have contributed to the issue of childhood obesity.
“Electronics have completely consumed young children,” Woodson said. “Kids as young as 5 and 6 and 7 now have electronics, and they would prefer to do that than go outside.”
Woodson puts some of the blame on the parents for that. In this day and age, parents are more likely to take their children to places that they need to go instead of letting the child walk, ride their bikes or take public transportation to their destination. Parents also keep their children inside more for safety reasons.
“When we were young, our parents would tell us to go outside and play and not come back in until the street lights were on,” Woodson said. “Well, a lot of parents aren’t doing that anymore.”
Woodson doesn’t let her two daughters – one’s in middle school and the other is in elementary school – wander too far from home without her supervision. Because of this she wants to set a good example for her children.
“It’s not only the kids’ responsibility, but the adults too, because we are buried in our computers and in the television. Our kids are seeing that, and they are picking up those habits,” Woodson said. “It’s a family affair. It is as simple as going on a walk. Find the resources that we have in our communities, like the local nature reserve and the national parks that offer a tremendous amount of recourse to stay active.”
Woodson said that parents need to limit their children’s time on electronic devices, and seeing that young minds can be more creative, to allow them to pick the physical activity. She also points out that for a child to get in their physical activities, they do not have to play organized sports. Many children are not competitive and do not have an interest in playing team sports. But those children can still get in their physical activity with their parents and families.
Whether a child plays organized sports or simply just goes outside to play, it is important to get off of the couch or from behind a computer screen and run around for a while to perform enough physical activity to remain healthy.
For more information on Fit Kids 1st, visit www.fitforakidla.com.