I think it is universally accepted that children are the future. With that being said, we must give our children the opportunity to change and shape that future. Childhood obesity and obesity-related illnesses are robbing our youth of their chance at changing the world. The statistics are alarming: Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children ages 6 to 11 increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents ages 12 to 19 increased from 5% to 18.1%
Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term health impacts:
• Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
• Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
• Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.
The plus side is that this is a problem that can be corrected and prevented, which brings me back to you! As parents and future parents, you have the power to change the future by living a healthier lifestyle. Kids don’t do the food shopping. Kids follow the lead of their parents and the adults they look up to. You can set the right example and change the future just by taking small steps and staying active. You can take lessons learned from eating right and staying in shape and apply them to other aspects of your life. I call this ‘empowerment through exercise’. This is the message I give to our youth as spokesperson for the United Way’s Fun, Fly and Fit program. Get active, get in the best shape of your life, take that energy and go change the world. Together we can influence a generation in a positive direction and improve our lives at the same time. Check out links of the United Way’s Public Service Announcement, and me working the kids out at the BET Foundation’s Girls Summit. Any questions or comments, hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace and train hard!