Childhood Obesity – Tips For Avoiding Long-Term Health Implications
Obesity is a problem. And, from the perspective of human evolution, a fairly recent one. The reason is simple enough—over the course of thousands of generations, we’ve evolved into ideal hunters and gatherers. Our bodies became finely-tuned machines designed for roaming the wild, searching for food, and in all other ways leading an exciting, nomadic life. But then, virtually overnight, most of us exited the untamed wilderness and moved to the cities and suburbs. We resigned our positions as apex survivors and foragers to instead fill roles as cashiers, consultants, and cubicle jockeys. Our bodies, however, did not. Our well-honed ability to store excess calories as fat—so important to the survival of our ancestors—quickly became a modern-day liability, giving rise to Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all sorts of other unpleasantness.
While the exact nature and importance of an “ideal” weight is a hotly debated issue, it remains a medical fact that true obesity, meaning those with a BMI of 30 percent or more, can lead to real, lasting damage. Childhood obesity is especially problematic, as increased stress on growing joints and bones can lead to deformity, pain, loss of mobility, and, potentially, a lifelong diminished quality of life. In fact, according to a study from 2005, every pound of excess weight actually results in four additional pounds of pressure on knees. Compound this over the thousands of steps your child takes every day and it’s easy to imagine how quickly this can accelerate the wear and tear of young joints.
Since September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to remind ourselves just how important weight management is to our children’s long-term well-being. But awareness is only the start—to make a real difference in your child’s health, consider these tips to help them overcome the sedentary challenges of modern life and preserve their young knees for a lifetime of pain-free service.
Encourage an active lifestyle.
Participating in organized sports is a fantastic way to stay fit, and if your child has a favorite, be sure to encourage their love of the game as much as possible. But sports aren’t the only option, and they’re certainly not for everyone. Find something your child enjoys, and then keeping them engaged becomes that much easier. Throwing a football might not be their thing, but taking long hikes with the dog or throwing a frisbee in the park may suit them just fine. The important thing is getting them out and about, early and often (and safely—check out our article Playing It Safe – The Whys and Hows of Sports Hydration, Warm Ups, and Stretching for some helpful tips).
Nurture a taste for healthy foods.
If exercise (calories burned) is one half of the weight-control equation, diet (calories consumed) is the other half. But, unfortunately, lots of conventional wisdom on this subject is off the mark. Many “healthy” snacks are loaded with corn syrup, and even seemingly smart choices, like drinking juice instead of soda, can still lead to far too much sugar. Check out Food is Fuel! 10 Ways to Teach Healthy Eating to Your K-5 Students for some excellent insights on helping your child become an active participant in their own healthy eating.
Consult a physician.
While most overweight children simply need a little healthy encouragement and a few lifestyle adjustments, in some extreme cases a medical solution, such as bariatric surgery, may be necessary. Always talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns. Their advice can help you understand your child’s unique situation so you, as a family, can form a nutrition and exercise plan, manage expectations, and lay the groundwork for their healthy future.
Helping your child manage weight can be challenging, but the younger you begin the easier it will be—now, and into adulthood. Starting early can protect them from a host of health issues down the road, ranging from diabetes, sleep apnea and depression. That said, never feel like it’s too late to start. In fact, if you yourself have wrestled with obesity in the past, and especially if you continue struggling with weight today, talking to your doctor and making the right lifestyle changes can vastly improve your health. And while some damage may prove stubborn, the right medical attention can do wonders. Knee pain, for example, is one of the most common ongoing problems brought on by obesity, and it’s one that even weight-loss may not cure. If you’re suffering from knee pain, either from obesity or some other cause, make an appointment with an OHOW knee specialist. We can help you understand your options and take the right steps to reclaim your mobility—and your quality of life.
For more information on how OHOW can help you get on the right track, call 414-961-6880 today.