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Child weight gain linked to parental stress

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People seem to be rushing about at a higher rate than ever before. Parents struggle to balance work schedules, school activities, sports and all kinds of lessons for kids, and home time. Many parents have a second job or attend evening classes. Juggling so many activities causes parents a lot of stress which can impact their children’s health.

A study of over 4, 000 children ages 5-10 measured their BMI (body mass index) over four years. The children’s parents were also given a questionnaire to measure their perceived psychological stress – such as their control over important things and whether their difficulties seemed unmanageable.

The results of the study were published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, and found that children whose parents have high levels of stress have a Body Mass Index (BMI) about 2 percent higher than children whose parents have lower levels of stress. Children with stressed parents also gained weight at a 7 percent higher rate during the study than other children.

The researchers note that although these gains may seem low, they are significant because they are happening in young children, whose bodies and eating habits are still developing. In fact, childhood is a critical period for cognitive development and energy balance, influenced by children’s health and physical fitness.

Causes of the weight gain were uncertain but suggestions included healthy home cooked meals being replaced by junk food or fast food meals, lower levels of physical activity due to less organized play time, and a general lack of organization of a healthy daily routine.

Researchers found that educating parents about life organization, stress reduction tactics, and healthy lifestyle changes could make a difference. They also suggested parents and children learn about nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits through fun, hands-on activities such as cooking activities.

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