With all the evidence pointing to an alarming rise in the number of obese children in the U.K. there has never been a greater need to change the habits that have crept in over the last few years. Childhood obesity can spell disaster for our little ones on a number of levels:
- Childhood obesity tends to lead into adulthood obesity, suggesting that the rising numbers of overweight children are laying the foundations for an increasingly unhealthy adult population in the future;
- Obesity can cause terrible health problems, from joint pain and mobility difficulties to insulin resistance and Type Two diabetes.
The potential cost for the health service is overwhelming, of course, but the problems associated with obesity are not just physical; the emotional impact of being overweight and unhealthy can be just as devastating, especially for a child.
Our diets are responsible in part for this worrying trend. As our lives have become busier the types of food we consume have changed, with more and more people relying on convenience foods or ready-meals when time is an issue.
These types of food tend to contain large quantities of sugar and fat, and when unhealthy snacks are also consumed between meals, daily calorie counts can quickly shoot sky-high. The trend for super-sizing portions is also having an effect on the amount we eat, and studies have shown that many adults wildly over estimate how much their child actually needs to eat at any one sitting.
Of course, if the calories consumed in a day are burned off during activities or exercise, then a child will not start to pile on pounds of external fat. But at the same time as we began to eat more sugary and fatty foods, we also stopped taking part in sport or other physical activities.
Video games and television have transfixed our offspring and seemingly glued them to the sofa, which may keep them quiet for a few hours, but can have disastrous effects on their health as well as their physical and emotional development if they do nothing to bring balance to their lifestyle.
There are so many sports and outdoor games that can offer exercise, healthy activity, social interaction, learning opportunities and, yes, fun for children that it seems criminal not to introduce them to the delights of the great outdoors. Healthy children make for happy children, so grab your bikes and your waterproofs and take your kids out to discover adventure and good health.
Yasmin Moss takes an interest in childhood obesity and looks at encouraging children to get outside more. Yasmin writes for Little Adventure Company