Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their families' habits with the goal of overweight and obese children obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight. That's why the YMCA of Central Ohio, a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health, wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity has remained stable at about 17% and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers. In Ohio, 33.1% of children ages 10-17 are considered overweight or obese, according to The State of Obesity Organization.

The YMCA of Central Ohio is helping families improve their health and potentially reduce the impact of childhood obesity by offering Healthy Weight and Your Child, an evidence based program for children with obesity. The program includes a Family Information Session followed by 20 sessions delivered over 4 months. The family based weight management program focuses on nutrition education and physical activity to encourage healthier eating habits and an active lifestyle to reach a healthy weight.

Healthy Weight and Your Child's curriculum is adapted from the most widely disseminated and extensively evaluated child weight management program in the world. Studies have shown that the program is effective in reducing a child's body mass index and waist circumference, reducing sedentary behaviors, increasing physical activity and improving self-esteem. 

While outside support is key, developing healthy habits begins at home. The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into your daily family routine: 

  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals and allow children to pour their own water. Keep full water bottles available in the car and back packs.
  • Play Every Day/ Go Outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-on-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another's company.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of the television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, charge electronics/screens in the kitchen overnight, go for a walk after a meal, set a timer to remind you to power down the screen).
  • Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults. 

To learn more about Healthy Weight and You Child and how to register, please click here