Unique Ways To Keep Your Child Active and Fight Childhood Obesity
By Jori Hamilton
Obesity is an ongoing issue with modern Americans as adults continue to struggle profoundly with the ability to keep their weight at a reasonable level. However, it isn’t just older individuals failing to keep their weight in check. Children are also struggling with obesity at an alarming rate.
The Struggle with Childhood Obesity in America
It’s no secret that obesity is a problem in the 21st-century. In the United States, in particular, weight issues — and the numerous health concerns that come with them — have completely run rampant, with the CDC reporting that a staggering 42.4% of Americans battled with obesity in 2017-2018 alone.
Children have not been immune to this health crisis. In fact, while childhood is often seen as a time of great activity and generally sound health, the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of America’s youth is quickly impacting their obesity rates. For instance, in the last fifty years, the rate of childhood obesity has nearly quadrupled, from just over 5% to nearly 20%.
Screentime has been a massive contributor to this trend. The average American child between 8 and 18 years old spends 7.5 hours in front of a screen each day — and that doesn’t even take into account the increase in screen time created by the shift to remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This oversaturation of screens and digital devices dramatically exacerbates the obesity issue, with each additional hour of screen time — particularly television — increasing the prevalence of obesity by 2%.
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Unique Ways to Keep Your Child Active
While it’s easy to highlight the dangers of childhood obesity, parents everywhere know that it’s a lot harder to, you know, actually motivate your kids to get up off their butts and start moving around. With that in mind, here are a few unique takes on ways to keep your children active.
Get Them Outside with a Focus
It’s no secret that playing outside is an essential part of staying active and healthy. Numerous scientifically-backed benefits come with time spent outdoors, including lower stress, boosted immunity, and better sleep. Oh yeah, and greater physical activity, too. The simple act of getting your child outside can do wonders for their mental and physical health — and, by extension, their weight, as well.
However, if your child seems bored or lethargic in their outdoor play, it can be helpful to gently sow the seeds for greater activity. You can do this in many innovative and unique ways, such as:
- Giving them a challenge, like running around the house a certain number of times or building a fort.
- Setting up an obstacle course for them to complete in a certain amount of time.
- Downloading a good geocaching app and then going on an adventure together.
- Engaging in seasonal activities like planting a garden in the spring or going to a corn maze in the fall.
- Getting out grandpa’s metal detector and tasking them to see what they can find.
Whatever the specific activity might be at any given moment, getting your kids outside and engaged in unique, challenging activities is a great way to activate both their bodies and minds.
Get Creative with Their Food
Encouraging your children to eat healthy foods is already challenging as it is. Things like themed packaging and colorful, segmented plate presentations are constantly being employed to get kids to eat their fruits and veggies.
However, the struggle to convince children to stick to a healthy diet presents an ideal crossover with the challenge of keeping them moving. By integrating activity into their food prep, you can simultaneously get them up moving around and cultivate a vested interest in what they’re eating.
For instance, have your kids come with you when you go grocery shopping and then fill them in on why you choose each item. If they can walk the distance of a shopping trip, don’t let them ride in the cart. Instead, make sure that they’re walking the whole time.
Another option is to plant and care for a garden together. Mark out a portion of the garden that is their own to tend and care for and then help them learn how to grow their own food.
Promote Regular Tech Detoxes
Sometimes the best way to encourage activity isn’t to promote the activity itself but rather to divert a child’s attention from sedentary options. For instance, a Harvard School of Public Health study discovered that there is a link between screen time and obesity. This is particularly strong when it comes to watching television.
Rather than trying to get your kids to do a specific task or activity, start implementing “unplugging” times each day. Fortunately, most of their digital remote schoolwork does not consist of “television-like” activities, so those can be left intact. However, extracurricular screen time can be strategically reduced, such as limiting the amount of time spent watching television or turning off the auto-play function on Netflix.
At first, take your child by the hand as they adjust to life without screens. Aim to make these times interesting and exciting. For instance, you can ditch the technology to play a family game or read a book together.
As your kids get used to the idea of regularly putting down their electronics, start to incorporate unplugging at other times of the day — and then leave your kids to figure out how to overcome their lack of tech on their own. Allowing your child to learn to overcome boredom isn’t just a way to get them active, it also helps teach them a critical life lesson that they can utilize far into the future.
Combatting Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is a clear threat to modern youths. However, it isn’t a danger that has to go unaddressed. From engaging in outdoor play to involvement in food prep to regularly unplugging, there are many ways that children can be uniquely coaxed to get up and fight back against obesity through their own activity.
About the Author
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to health and wellness, productivity, eco-friendly living, and child development. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
*Photos courtesy of Jori Hamilton