Obesity in Children & Physical Activity

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Daily physical activity is an important part of reversing childhood obesity.

As of 2011, the American Heart Association estimates that one in three American children and teenagers are overweight or obese. If left untreated, childhood obesity can lead to a variety of physical and emotional problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. The most prevalent causes of childhood obesity are a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. Incorporating daily physical activity into a child's life helps combat obesity and its effects.

  1. Causes of Inactivity

    • Several factors may contribute to a child's sedentary lifestyle. Children that attend schools with reduced physical education classes and recess periods may get physical activity at school, the Parent Teacher Organization's website reports. At home, time spent watching television, playing computer games or talking or texting on cell phones may prevent children from pursuing more active pastimes, suggests MayoClinic.com.

    Minimum Physical Activity

    • The AHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity for children and adolescents. This activity can be done all at once or broken into smaller blocks of activity completed throughout the course of the day.

    Types of Activities

    • For obese children, the focus of weight management should be physical activity rather than structured "exercise" programs. Whether it is playing a team sport or just running around the yard, any activity that gets a child's heart rate up counts toward his daily activity goals. Mayo Clinic.com suggests allowing your child to choose activities he enjoys to prevent physical activity from feeling like a punishment and to help the child establish a habit of incorporating physical activity into his routine.

    Benefits of Physical Activity

    • Obese children may benefit both physically and psychologically from regular physical activity. Beyond helping a child manage or lose weight, daily physical activity can strengthen bones and muscles and may improve sleep quality and daytime alertness and reduce symptoms of asthma or sleep apnea, according to MayoClinic.com. Daily physical activity may also boost a child's self-esteem and reduce symptoms of depression.

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