Imagine leaving the doctor’s office with the news that you are indeed obese, or worse — diabetic? The fact that your entire way of life must be altered in a matter of days or months, because your life depends on it, appears inconceivable. The news is even more striking, after having lived a lifetime filled with misconceptions regarding nutrition and exercise. How to make sense of it all? How to do you begin relaying the news to your spouse…your children? Not to mention the newly prescribed medication with its secondary effects.
Where does one begin to turn things around when knowledge, in relation to exercise and proper nutrition, is close to nonexistent?
Lets take a step back. What does data tell us about childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity carries long-term effects that affect the individual physically, socially, and emotionally later into adulthood (CDC) (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006). “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes” which are “some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death” (Prevention, Overweight & Obesity, 2018). In fact, childhood obesity is a growing trend in the United States (Prevention. C. f., 2019).
“Note: Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts (Prevention, C. f., 2018)”.
Interpretation of data, statistical analysis, and hypothesis testing aids the professional in the proper diagnosis and treatment for noninfectious diseases.
Let us take a look at what data tell us regarding the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States:
Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States for children and adolescents aged 2–19 years:
• “The prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents”.
• “Obesity prevalence was 13.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% among 12- to 19-year-olds. Childhood obesity is also more common among certain populations”.
• “Hispanics (25.8%) and non-Hispanic blacks (22.0%) had higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic whites (14.1%)”.
• “Non-Hispanic Asians (11.0%) had lower obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics”.
What does it all mean?
Education of the importance and long-term positive benefits of proper nutrition and regular exercise is gaining momentum nowadays (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006).
It is important to note that functional fitness does not necessarily mean having the ability to lift heavy loads or having the ability to run full marathons.
On the contrary, fitness and health deals with practicing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, in all aspects of life. Whether it means wearing your seat-belt or having a fire extinguisher handy, one is inherently opting and preparing to stay healthy.
In the same manner, eliminating risk factors that will reduce the probability of developing heart disease or diabetes into adulthood is equally important in health promotion.
Counting calories is not the only way to assess and predict health and fitness levels. Body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), weight, and height altogether can help the professional interpret data:
“Such indirect methods of estimating body composition include measuring weight and weight for height, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, skinfold thickness, and ponderal index. Of these, perhaps the most convenient is BMI” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 200).
What are the some causes and consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle?
In fact, “obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States” (Prevention, 2018). A well known factor and that plays an important role in the sedentary problem involves (but not limited to) the overwhelming amount of screen time used by individuals. Increased usage of technology has become routine for children and adults over the years. Specifically, children whom are consistently bombarded (on the daily) with technological advances and their marketing strategies, making it difficult to avoid. Children and adults have indeed found technology stimulating and engaging.
However, it is important to note that unlike other noninfectious diseases (e.g., cancer )— obesity, high cholesterol, and hypertension can be managed and controlled. If untreated, however, the consequences can be fatal.
Consider the following:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of adults diagnosed with heart disease is 28.2 million (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Startlingly, heart disease is ranked number one cause of death in the United States — cancer is second (Sherry L. Murphy, 2018). Indeed an unhealthy diet is one of the main contributors.
“Your lifestyle choices can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack.”
What can adults do to help children deal with pressing issues?
Bottom line: Parents and physical education teachers it is necessary to increase opportunities for outside play (e.g., sports, bike riding, playground play, etc.).
The professional can further help parents and the individual dealing with childhood obesity understand ways in which their lifestyle could be accurately enhanced (e.g., exercise, nutrition and its applications) (Mary L. Gavin, 2015–2019). For example:
“Pediatric health care providers and public health officials can encourage, monitor, and advocate for increased physical activity for children and teenagers” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 200).
Putting it all together
Statistical analysis, serves to illustrate the urgency of current trends in our nation. The evidence is staggering and data should indeed scare us all; but primarily, data should serve as a motivator.
Opting for healthier lifestyle changes should not be a matter of choice, but of necessity.
Exercise in particular, can help decrease the risk of obesity and noninfectious diseases (e.g., cardiovascular diseases) for both children and adults. Regular exercise (e.g., swimming, walking, bike riding) will help and enable children maintain an ideal weight while conversely reducing the risk for obesity and, instead, benefit from an increase in physical, social and emotional confidence (Mary L. Gavin, 2015–2019).
An increase in muscular composition and cardiovascular endurance will help the child keep up with his/her peers during recess or physical education. Resulting in increased socialization and emotional well being patterns by the child (e.g., mood regulation and conflict resolution).
In contrast, as stated earlier, the probability of children developing adulthood obesity will increase if the child is in fact is chronically obese and is unable to assess the issue.
If untreated, childhood obesity could lead to hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease later in life (CDC). As data confirms, hypothesis testing and statistics can and does assist the professional with the measuring and interpretation of collected data. Careful attention in this area is also beneficial.
Let’s think of solutions. What can be done to address the issue?
- First, it is crucial the individual begins developing healthy eating habits. As professionals, educating children on food portions and the food pyramid can contribute to healthier eating habits.
- Second, allowing for regular exercise in school is important. When executed properly, children are taught proper sport related techniques, applications, and movements.
- Third, regular exercise and eating habits should be modeled and practiced by older adults (e.g., physical education teachers, parents, coaches, etc.) in the school setting and at home so that children will be more likely to pick-up on these habits (Mary L. Gavin, 2015–2019). Mainly, get out and have fun!
One last word
The issue of childhood obesity is a resounding one that needs careful and immediate attention. As a result, hypothesis testing and statistics can and does assist the professional with the measuring and interpretation of collected data relating to childhood obesity. For these reasons, the sooner professionals (e.g., coaches, physical education teachers, etc.) and parents, begin educating children in this issue — the more lives that could potentially be saved later into the future. If treated, the potential to live a life free from noninfectious diseases and medication increases for the child, soon to be an adult.
Again, healthy lifestyle choices is something within our control and exposing children early in life to such behaviors will help decrease the likelihood of childhood obesity in children. In turn, children’s potential to experience a richer lifestyle without medication in adulthood is likely.
The parent and physical educator could and should assist in raising fit kids by being active and having fun together (Mary L. Gavin, 2015–2019).
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2006). Active Healthy Living: Prevention of Childhood Obesity Through Increased Physical Activity. Retrieved May 2019, from AAP News & Journals: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/5/1834
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, January 19). National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved May 2019, from Heart Disease: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/heart-disease.htm
Mary L. Gavin, M. (2015–2019). Retrieved May 2019, from KidsHealth from Nemours: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html
Prevention, C. f. (2018, September 11). Overweight & Obesity. Retrieved May 2019, from Childhood Overweight and Obesity: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/
Prevention, C. f. (2018, August 13). Overweight & Obesity. Retrieved 2019, from Adult Obesity Facts: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
Prevention, C. f. (2019, March 25). Overweight & Obesity. Retrieved May 2019, from Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/prevalence-maps.html
Sherry L. Murphy, B. J. (2018, November). NCHS Data Brief, №328, November 2018. Retrieved May 2019, from Mortality in the United States, 2017: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db328-h.pdf