An increase in childhood obesity has experts predicting countless heart attacks and strokes during the next decades. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) obesity rates among children and youth have nearly tripled over the last 25 years.
Excess weight over time increases the risk of developing chronic health problems. Unhealthy weights combined with other risk factors such as family history, high cholesterol or high blood sugar levels can greatly elevate the risk of developing a wide range of chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The problem is not rooted to the home. A child’s social, physical and economic environments, including schools, home and the community, all have a significant influence on a child's eating habits and weight. Children have fewer options than adults for healthy eating and physical activity in environments over which they have little or no control.
The PHAC also points to research showing children are more likely to be overweight or obese if they have overweight or obese parents, and parents are given to over-nutrition at a young age.
Canada's Physical Activity Guides for Children and Youth recommend that young Canadians build up their activity levels every month until they are doing at least 90 minutes of activity each day.
The PHAC suggests seven ways you can increase your child's activity level:
Provide regular opportunities to learn new skills and have fun with activities like swimming, soccer, baseball, martial arts, hiking, dancing, gymnastics, skiing, basketball, skating, cycling, and tennis.
Encourage children to ride their bikes or walk instead of taking the bus or getting a ride.
Offer a choice of activities beyond organized sports: washing the car, walking the dog, planting a garden, playing tag, building a snowman, tobogganing, vacuuming the carpet, shoveling the driveway, or sweeping the garage.
Be a positive role model by being active yourself.
Be a physically active family. Plan activities like hiking, cycling, walking, in-line or ice skating.
Praise their choices of physical activities. Building their confidence is critical to success.
Limit the "non-active" time your child or teenager spends sitting in front of the television, playing video games, or surfing the Internet.