There seem to be increasing initiatives across the country these days to encourage people to be healthy and keep fit. One in particular that focuses on solving the problem of childhood obesity, was the Let’s Move initiative, launched on February 10th, 2010 by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Currently almost one in three children is either overweight or obese, and it is thought that a third of children born from 2000 onwards will suffer from diabetes mellitus at some stage in the future. Healthcare costs resulting from obesity-related conditions currently cost around $147 billion annually, and this epidemic additionally affects the nation’s security since obesity is one of the most common reasons that disqualifies individuals from military service.
According to the CDC, numerous factors contribute to childhood obesity:
- Behavior (level of food intake and exercise)
- Environmental factors
Certainly behavioral changes have dramatically impacted childhood obesity in recent decades. In the past 30 years or so, the rate of childhood obesity in this country has tripled. Children today live a completely different lifestyle to those who went before them a few decades ago. Current lifestyle changes comprise:
- Increased snacking (up to 6 snacks daily!), leading to consumption of an extra 200 calories daily
- Increased meal portion size (up to 5 times bigger)
- Increased consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
- Reduced physical activity (more rides to school; also children spend an average of 7.5 hours daily using some form of entertainment media)
The Department of Defense serves more than 2000,000 children in its childcare facilities daily, and has been among the first to adopt the “Let’s Move” standards in an effort to promote healthy habits in military families.
The 5-Step Healthy Habit Checklist of Let’s Move advises:
- 1-2 hours of exercise daily
- No screen time for children under 2 years old / No more than 1-2 hours of quality screen time for children over 2 years old
- Fruit and vegetables with each meal / No fried foods
- Encourage drinking of water throughout the day / No sugary drinks
- If a mother is breastfeeding, childcare providers should offer her milk to the child, or allow her to visit to breastfeed during the day
So despite the doom and gloom of increased childhood obesity, the good news is that children can be helped to lead healthier lives, simply by instituting some lifestyle changes. To promote health, the Let’s Move initiative advocates institution of healthy eating habits and increased physical activity, by families, schools and communities. The CDC recommends at least one hour of exercise daily for children, to incorporate aerobic activity as well as muscle and bone strengthening activities. Overall, the initiative aims to provide useful information to families and communities to help them make healthier choices and subsequently put children on the path to a healthier future from as early an age as possible.
“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation, and the economic health and security of our nation are at stake. This isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved overnight, but with everyone working together, it can be solved. So let’s move.”
– First Lady Michelle Obama