One in 7 American children is already overweight, according to statistics, and experts fear this number will rise due to COVID-19. Pediatricians are seeing significant weight gain in children because of stress eating, lack of physical exercise, and poor nutrition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of newly diagnosed cases of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are rising steadily among children and teens.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been studying obesity trends in children, and reported that people of color and families with low incomes have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to USA Today. Children and teens living in households with incomes below the federal poverty level are twice as likely to suffer from obesity, according to RWJF. Families with food insecurity switch to lower quality food, said experts.
A study conducted by Northwestern University found that 41% of Black households suffered from food insecurity during the pandemic, compared to 40% of Hispanics and 23% of whites, according to USA Today.
Children are also more sedentary than ever, say experts, which is not a good sign for the U.S. America ranks 47th out of 50 countries globally in terms of physical fitness.
According to Forbes, Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, added that authorities have urged us to stock up on high energy and high calorie snacks, which are shelf stable, instead of fresh produce.
“The school closures are making it harder for kids to be physically active and that means there’s going to be a lot more snacking on unhealthy foods,” Rundle told Forbes. He added that another reason lower income families will see a greater risk of obesity is that many live in cramped apartments with little physical space to move around.
Childhood obesity causes other health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, liver disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and high cholesterol, as well as respiratory problems such as asthma, according to the Childhood Obesity Foundation.
According to Exercise is Medicine, a division of the American College of Sports Medicine, being active can also decrease behavior problems in children and help them concentrate on their homework as well as boost their immune system. The experts compiled a handy guideline to age-appropriate exercise programs your children can do at home. You can find it here.
“If we want to protect our kids from deadly COVID-19, we must increase their physical activity and get them healthier,” said Dr. Zhen Yan, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, according to USA Today. Yan has previously stated he believes exercise can prevent or reduce the severity of the disease.
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