Posted on 09/14/2016 at 11:36 AM by YMCA of Greater Des Moines
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and Ys across the country are working with children, families and community leaders to turn the tide. Ryan Amundson, Health and Wellness Senior Program Director at the Wellmark YMCA, shares some alarming statistics and promising solutions.
Today, 1 in 6 children are considered obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the percentage of children ages 6 to 11 in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012; for adolescents ages 12 to 19, the percentage increased from 5% to nearly 21%. Given our mission to nurture the potential of children and teens, curbing this epidemic is one of our most crucial endeavors.
The complications that arise with childhood obesity include Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep disorders and liver disease. A child dealing with these physical issues can also be at a higher risk of mental struggles such as low self-esteem, depression or learning problems. Many experts worry that if we continue this trend, this could be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan expectancy than their parents.
Although these facts are alarming, we’re fortunate that childhood obesity is something we can prevent and combat — together.
When children are exposed to healthy habits such as active play, sports, exercise and nutritious foods, they are much more likely to not only be healthier now, but also set themselves up for a healthier adulthood. Make wellness a family endeavor; when kids see mom, dad or a sibling making their health a priority, they’ll learn to get on board as well. This method also avoids the sensitive issue of singling a particular family member out.
With the possible exception of Pokémon GO, the prevalence of technology has led many children to be glued to screens indoors instead of bouncing around outside. Getting your child moving while having fun is key to instilling an appreciation for physical activity; this is where Y programs like youth sports, camp and youth fitness classes come into play in such a big way. Studies show that kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise a day; with PE classes and recess often being the first thing cut in many schools, it’s up to organizations like the Y to partner with families to promote healthy youth development. While programs like youth volleyball and youth basketball are great ways to keep kids active, a game of tag in the backyard or a family jog around the block are simple, accessible ways to add more activity to your household’s day.
Each of our branches offers different avenues for kids to find their niche — whether it’s taekwondo at the Wellmark YMCA, Kids in the Kitchen at the South Suburban YMCA, a youth yoga class at the YMCA Healthy Living Center or flag football at the Grubb Y. Raising a healthy child is a community affair, and we’re honored to be part of your family’s journey. Ask our team what youth opportunities are in session now and what’s on the horizon. Let’s work together to reverse the trend and build a healthier community.
How have you found success getting your child active and eating well? Share your tips with Y families in the comments below!