Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Childhood Obesity

Recently I went to a conference on a huge epidemic in the United States. Childhood obesity is quickly becoming one of the largest problems we are and will face for some time. Recent statistics show that 36% of U.S. children are overweight. It is pretty amazing to think that in another 10 years that number is estimated to increase to almost 50%!

Overweight children are becoming so common that now new lifestyle diseases are being developed. In the past lifestyle diseases have been defined as diseases created by a poor diet and an in-active lifestyle such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. Exercise helps to control these problems and can even reverse several. What we are seeing now is that children are becoming so overweight, so early in life that "children on-set diabetes" is becoming rampant. If it sounds familiar it’s because it first came onto the scene labeled as "adult on-set diabetes." See the pattern? Well for those of you following at home that means that we are becoming fatter and out of shape much earlier in life. Not a good thing.

At this conference I referenced earlier a Dr. from Harvard spoke about how one of the best ways to combat this is put P.E. back in schools. Studies have shown that schools implementing daily P.E. had a 67% reduction in disciplinary problems. These schools also show dramatic increases in Math and Science scores if P.E. preceded said classes. So much so for a school in Florida that it was number 1 in 2004 in international Math and Science Scores! This is extremely significant. In the past the U.S. has not even qualified to be eligible to take the tests and compete internationally. After some serious lobbying they were able to work their way into the testing field and they then won beating China, Taiwan, and a host of other Asian countries that are typically bounds ahead of American children. Pretty impressive!

So how did we become so fat and out of shape. This Dr. stated that when we were a hunter-gather society we would move on average 15 miles daily. Today, the average person barely moves 1.5 miles (that being generous) throughout their day to day activity. Obviously this will be more if you exercise, but considering our obesity problem is continuing for adults and children, most people don’t! The bottom line is we eat too much, we move too little, and now our children are suffering by our poor example. At this conference, we also saw film footage of P.E. classes in the 50s and the children participating looked like anorexic basketball players compared to the children shown from today’s classes (which looked more like a fat camp gone horribly wrong!) Now I know what you’re saying, that is an insensitive remark, but I was one of those fat kids and chose to do something about it. You can too!Very simple solution, get up and move!! Shoot for an hour of activity a day. You will have lower stress levels, better cognitive function (exercise is like miracle grow for the brain), less anxiety, more confidence, lower blood pressure, and most importantly............lower body fat!

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