Youth Fitness Facts: Why Kids Are Getting Fatter and What You Can Do To Help

Childhood Obesity Statistics

The Symposium on Childhood Obesity reports that more than one in five American children are classified as overweight. And, the report states, overweight children have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. In fact, the number of overweight and obese kids has more than tripled in the last thirty years.

Image Credit: Armin Hanisch

Youth Fitness Facts: The Effect of the Family

Children who have parents who are obese are twice as likely to become obese adults, regardless of their weight during childhood. They are also less likely to get as much physical activity as kids of normal weight parents, and are less likely to eat healthy diets. And, children from lower income families are at a higher risk for becoming overweight or obese.

Sixteen percent of those from low-income families between the ages of 12 and 19 are overweight or obese. And, surprisingly, ninety percent of parents believe their kids are physically fit, while statistics show that only one in three actually meets the criteria to be classified as such.

The Racial Factor

Statistically speaking, race may affect one’s risk level for overweight or obesity. According to the Symposium on Childhood Obesity: Causes and Prevention report, Mexican-American boys ages six to eleven show the highest overweight and obesity rates among children (at 17 percent.) African-American girls ages six to nineteen come in next at 16 percent. Low-income white children are almost three times as likely to be overweight as their middle and upper-class counterparts.

Environmental Causes

According to research compiled by the Fitness for Youth (FFY) organization, the average American kid gets less than 15 minutes of intentional exercise each day, and only 43 minutes of “moderate” activity. American kids, on average, spend about 20 percent of their time watching television and drink 20 ounces of soda per day.

Half of school-aged children aren’t required to take physical education classes. In fact, only 36 percent report having daily PE classes, while another 36 percent is offered PE twice a week or less. And, in a typical American gym class, less than 30 percent of class time is devoted to actual physical activity.

As kids get older, they’re less likely to work out—especially girls. Boys, on average, exercise about 3 percent less each year, while girls lower their workout rates by almost 8 percent each year.

How Parents Can Help

Common sense is key when it comes to keeping your kids physically healthy. Start with the basics. Limit time spent in front of the television, and encourage “active watching” in which your children march or otherwise move while watching their shows. If you’re just getting started, try getting up and moving during commercials at first.

Get kids involved in physical activities like sports teams or dance classes. You might also consider taking a yoga or self-defense class with your child to encourage him to be more active.

Remember that kids can’t eat what isn’t there. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy and easy to grab snacks like fruit and veggies and low fat granola bars. Microwave popcorn is a good high volume, low calorie snack. Certain brands offer smaller, single serve bags. Be sure to check the label for fat content, as some microwave popcorn is loaded with high fat butter and oil.

On the same note, cook healthy meals for the whole family. Remember that your own health and weight can directly affect that of your children. Lead by example and be sure you’re taking good care of your own body. Good health is a gift given not only to yourself, but also to your family.