It seems to me that the fast pace of the world today has contributed to the health problems in our society, especially our children. Fast food, unhealthy snacks, microwave dinners etc. are readily available and less expensive than healthy alternatives.

According to Results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are overweight. shows that overweight increased from 7.2 to 13.9% among 2-5 year olds and from 11 to 19% among 6-11 year olds between 1988-94 and 2003-2004. Among adolescents aged 12-19, overweight increased from 11 to 17% during the same period.

So what does this mean? The UCSF states that being overweight increases a child’s risk for a number of diseases and conditions, including:

Asthma — A large number of children that are overweight have asthma.

Diabetes — Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult onset diabetes, has become increasingly prevalent among overweight children and adolescents. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Gallstones — The incidence of gallstones is significantly higher in those who are obese.

Heart Disease — Early indicators of atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart disease, begin as early as childhood and adolescence in children with risk factors. Atherosclerosis is related to high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are associated with poor eating habits and overweight.

High Blood Pressure — Overweight children are more likely to have high blood pressure that can strain the heart.

Liver Problems — People who are obese are at higher risk for a liver problem called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can lead to cirrhosis.

Menstrual Problems — Being overweight may cause a girl to reach puberty at an earlier age. Also, obesity may contribute to uterine fibroids or menstrual irregularities later in life.

Trouble Sleeping — Children who are overweight are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious, potentially life-threatening breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. This can over a long period of time, lead to heart failure.

How do I know if my child is overweight? Take a look at the BMI Calculator for Child and Teen.

What can I do?

Let’s start with 2 things:

Nutrition: In an earlier post we mentioned the Food Pyramid. Is your child getting a balanced diet? Keep Kids Healthy has many references for nutrition. Start slowly, you don’t want your child to associate healthy options with negativity.

Activity: Is your child getting enough activity? Many children today keep themselves busy with the computer or TV. Try meeting him/her halfway….check out an earlier post Wii Fit Really?. The Wii might be a helpful tool in motivating the child towards becoming more active and with something they are familiar with (TV). Get your child involved in various sports or community activities, encourage goal setting….offer rewards.

How about a camp ? KidsCamps.com lists various camps through out the country from adventure to military style camps. Lifetime Fitness has a wonderful variety of different programs for your child, offering Fit To Learn Pre-School programs, Climbing Wall classes, Basketball and much more!

*The bottom line is we need to become more involved in our childrens health, and making fitness/health fun is a good start!*