Written by Dr. David Geier, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Next week marks the five-year anniversary of the launch of the Let’s Move! campaign. This initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, aims to make children happier and healthier by reversing some dangerous trends in childhood obesity:
- Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last 30 years.
- Almost 40% of African American and Hispanic children are overweight or obese.
- Obesity in kids can lead to dangerous medical problems later in life, such as heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and asthma.
- Obese children and teenagers are more likely to become obese as adults compared to non-obese children.
- Early research suggests that low self-esteem from childhood obesity can negatively affect academic performance and social interactions.
Fortunately, parents, schools, community leaders and healthcare providers can take steps to help children become more physically active and decrease the chances those kids become obese.
Parents can encourage their kids to get outside and play every day instead of watching TV or playing on the computer or with video games. They can try to walk instead of drive as a family whenever possible. Parents can start family walks, such as walking the dog, and family bike rides. And moms and dads can even encourage their kids to exercise with them.
Schools can add physical education classes into the student curriculum daily. Teachers can plan field trips and other activities that combine walking and hiking with learning opportunities.
Community leaders can explore ideas to help kids get exercise as well. They can try to create safe paths and sidewalks so more kids can walk or bike to school. They can try to build parks with plenty of open space for kids to run and play. They can ensure access to recreational sports to kids of all ages.
Finally doctors and all healthcare professionals can serve as advocates for children. They can encourage parents to get kids more exercise and less screen time. They should promote better nutrition, including less fast food and sugary drinks.
If we all work to help children adopt healthier nutrition and increase physical activity, we can improve their lives now and as they get older. For more information on the Let’s Move! campaign and more tips to decrease childhood obesity, please visit the campaign’s website at http://www.letsmove.gov.