To maintain a healthy lifestyle, children should get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. The alarming reality is children are rarely meeting these standards. Only 13% of Canadian children and youth get their recommended 60 minutes, and in the United States, 1 in 3 children are either overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is not just a North American problem; these trends are being seen all over the world.
The reasons for the rising rates of obesity are numerous. Studies suggest a variety of causes such as:
• Less physical activity
• Greater reliance on cars
• More eating out
• Sedentary entertainment i.e. TV, video and computer games
• More high calorie food choices
• Bigger food portions
• Safety concerns related to outside free play
While the causes of childhood obesity may be up for debate, most of the medical world agrees that combating childhood obesity starts with prevention.
Research has shown that a well-designed and well-implemented school program can effectively promote physical activity, healthy eating and reductions in television viewing time.
According to Joe MacDonald, professor at St. Francis Xavier University, today’s children are “physically illiterate”. Similar to how children learn to read and write, they also need to learn the “language of movement”. Consequently, schools should create a learning environment that teaches children to be active.
To combat the childhood obesity epidemic, programs like At My Best in Canada, Let’s Move! in the USA and Obesity Prevention Australia have been created to provide parents, teachers and kids with the necessary resources to live a healthy life.
While these programs are an important stepping stone on the way to a healthier future, it is important to remember “childhood obesity isn’t some simple, discrete issue. There’s no one cause we can pinpoint. There’s no one program we can fund to make it go away. Rather, it’s an issue that touches on every aspect of how we live and how we work”.
Public Health Agency of Canada: Tips To Get Active
Health Kids Canada 2009 Report Card
Solving Childhood Obesity through Supportive Parenting