During the last full week of April each year, schools across the country participate in Every Kid Healthy Week. This event is meant to celebrate the ways that schools are improving the health and wellbeing of students and to help educate kids about the relationship between nutrition, physical activity, and learning. Meritage Medical Network knows how important health education and developing healthy habits are for young children, so we wanted to provide students, parents, and caretakers with a list of interesting facts about children’s health and wellbeing with some helpful advice about how to start implementing a healthier lifestyle along the way.
- In a 2013 survey, only 17.7% of females and 36.6% of males reported getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day; only 24% of females and 35% of males attended physical education classes each day while in school.
- Most young people in the United States do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, do not eat the minimum recommended amounts of whole grains, and eat more than the maximum suggested amount of sodium each day.
- On average, “empty” calories from substances like added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calorie intake for children and adolescents, and adolescents drink more non-diet soda per day than milk.
- Over the past thirty years, obesity has more than doubled among children and quadrupled among adolescents! In fact, in 2012, more than a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
- The negative health effects of childhood obesity are both immediate and can last for the rest of someone’s life. Some of the consequences of childhood obesity include higher risks for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, poor self-esteem, stroke, and many types of cancer.
- For the vast majority if children (and adults), obesity is caused by a caloric imbalance, which basically means they are taking in more calories than they are using up. The good news is, this is a completely fixable problem. With a healthier diet and more physical activity, anyone can start expending more calories than they are taking in.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human services recommends that young people get at least 60 minutes of physical activity in each day from ages 6 to 17. Schools can help each student reach their goal of getting 60 minutes of activity in, but parents and caregivers can also encourage more physical activity at home – especially now that it is spring and the weather is getting nicer.
- There are innumerable benefits for children who increase their physical activity: developing healthier bones and muscles; reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many types of cancer; increased self-esteem; decreased feelings of anxiety and depression; improved academic performance; and much, much more!
- Healthy eating has many of the same benefits of increased physical activity: it can promote ideal growth and development, reduce the risk of disease, and improve academic performance; for example, eating a nutritious breakfast is associated with better memory, improved cognitive function, reduced absenteeism, and better mood.
- To learn more about the recommended dietary guidelines for children and adults, you can visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/about.html
It’s becoming clearer and clearer that childhood obesity is a problem in the United States and that the majority of children and adolescents are not getting the proper nutrition that they need or participating in enough physical activity. Each one of us can improve the health and wellbeing of the children in our lives – as well as our own – by starting to implement small changes into our lifestyle: take the stairs, go for a walk, stock the cupboard with more fruits and vegetables, and start learning more about all the different ways to improve your eating habits and get more physical activity. Even the smallest changes to your diet and exercise can result in enormous benefits! And if you’d like to speak with a doctor to learn more about nutrition and physical activity – for you or your child – you can use Meritage Medical Network’s handy find-a-doctor feature on our homepage to find a doctor or specialist near you.
Action for Healthy Kids. (2015). What we do. Action for Healthy Kids. Retrieved from https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/what-we-do/every-kid-healthy-week
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Adolescent and school health. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/index.htm