With nationwide school closures keeping children indoors, experts fear that the inactivity and access to high-calorie snacks may exacerbate the epidemic of childhood obesity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States putting children and adolescents at risk for more serious health conditions. According to the CDC obesity affects 18.5% of our children. Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children have a higher obesity rate as do those in lower income groups.
Childhood obesity causes other health issues 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 Forbes, research shows that most children tend to gain weight during the summer months instead of during the school year. It’s the summer vacation that packs on the pounds, when the children don’t participate in the activity and daily structure of a school day.
Another contributing factor to pandemic obesity is the type of food we’ve stockpiled. Andrew Rundle, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, author of a recent study on the topic, said that authorities have urged us to stock up on high energy and high calorie snacks that 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 adds that lower income families will see a greater risk of obesity since many live in cramped apartments with little physical space to move around.
Paul Von Hippel, associate professor at LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin, says its likely that both children and adults will try to relieve stress by binge eating on comfort food which tends to high in fat and sugar.
He suggests that even those living in small apartments should take regular walks while practicing social distancing. He told Forbes that simple at-home exercises like jumping jacks, pushups and burpees can alleviate stress and burn calories.
According to Exercise is Medicine, a division of the American College of Sports Medicine, being active can also decrease behavior problems in children during the pandemic 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.
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