People are finally starting to see the light and realize the serious effects of being overweight on our young population. This awareness will hopefully make a difference in their future. Children are getting risk factors for heart disease, fatty deposits in their blood vessels, high levels of cholesterol, and dramatic increases in type 2 diabetes—which used to be called adult-onset diabetes because it was not seen in kids. Well, no longer are those health problems reserved for adults. Another issue is the effect on self-esteem and the psychological well-being of the child. And the longer a child stays overweight, the greater the chance he will remain that way as an adult. Once he becomes an overweight parent, he often starts a similar cycle with his own children. It is important for us all to try to help break that unhealthy cycle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, a major child advocate organization made up of more than 60,000 pediatricians across the country, has made reducing the problem of overweight children one of its top priorities. Unfortunately, just as the number of overweight youngsters is rising, the opportunities for PE classes in public schools are declining. Many schools have dropped PE classes because of financial problems, while others just do not have the staff available. Some schools have quit requiring PE for graduation. Even the schools that do have such classes may not be optimal situations because many of the kids spend a large part of class time getting changed, waiting in line for their turn, and getting dressed again. We must all do our part to stop the insanity and help our children as well as ourselves get some form of exercise. Thankfully, there is growing research and a rising number of programs available to help form some guidance to solving the nationwide weight problem. Some school programs and PE teachers are making great headway by focusing their classes more on fitness-related activities than just playing games and are finding ways to creatively increase the time your kids are actually active.
This crossroad is where some of the problem lies. For some reason, society often emphasizes the importance of competition and winning rather than exercise itself. This does not help a youngster feel good about getting even a low to moderate amount of exercise and may often lead to guilt about not wanting to compete on a structured team sport. We have got to change that attitude and encourage activity at any level as a positive healthy behavior.
Walking the dog briskly, riding the bike to the store, playing tag in the backyard, and participating on a team are all acceptable forms of exercise. Getting 45 to 60 minutes of activity on as many days as possible, even if it is broken up into 15-minute segments, is an important and achievable goal. Not all kids have to be in organized sports, but the health statistics show that kids need to be doing something or we will all be in trouble with medical bills.