September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Asheville, N.C., Sept. 5, 2017 – September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their families’ habits with the ultimate goal of being a healthy weight. That’s why the YMCA of Western North Carolina — a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health—wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity has remained stable at about 17 percent and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers.
A 2012 study by the National Survey of Children’s Health found that 31.4 percent of North Carolina children ages 10-17 were overweight or obese.
“Successfully lowering obesity rates in children requires the whole family to change their eating and physical activity habits,” said Melissa Wiedeman, vice president of youth services at the YMCA of WNC. “Kids learn unhealthy habits at home, and many parents or caregivers don’t realize how the choices they make affects those who look up to them.”
“Additionally, if families don’t know how to get started, reaching out to your health care provider or organizations like the Y that provide support are great first steps.”
The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into your daily family routine:
- Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water.
- Play Every Day/Go Outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving
- Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another's company.
- Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone, or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e., turn off screens during meals, go for a walk after a meal, set a timer to remind you to power down the screen).
- Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.
"In addition to being healthy at home, there is a need to maintain healthy habits while attending out-of-school programs," said Wiedeman. "To create healthy environments for all children the YMCA of WNC is implementing Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in our child care programs. Our goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for your children while they're in our care."
To foster your child’s health, the Y strives to:
- Provide a fruit and/or vegetable at all meals and snacks.
- Only provide low-fat milk and water as beverages.
- Serve meals and snacks family-style.
- Set limits on screen time.
- Provide daily physical activity (outdoors when possible).
- Promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for infants.
- Adults model healthy food and beverage choices and active play.
- Provide parent/caregiver education to encourage healthy behaviors at home.