September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
by Gordon Echtenkamp
Over the past few decades, childhood obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold among those ages 6 to 11. More than 23 million children and teenagers in the United States ages 2 to 19 are obese or overweight putting them at early risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke. If America’s trend continues at its current pace, all 50 states could have obesity rates above 44 percent by 2030, according to a new report from Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and according to the same report, at the current rate of weight gain, by 2030, 57.2 percent of Texans will be obese. The good news is we can do something about it.
Make it a family effort. Setting a good example is the best way to reinforce the importance of exercise to your child. For instance, you could take the whole family on a weekend day trip to a state or national park and go hiking. If you don’t feel like going that far, get creative – transform your backyard or a nearby park into an obstacle course and compete in Family Olympics. When your child sees you participating in and enjoying regular exercise, they’ll be more likely to pick up the habit.
Limit time spent in front of screens. How many hours combined does your child spend each day watching television, playing video games and using the computer? It may be more than you realize. Try setting a daily time limit on any device with a screen and consider restricting electronics to family areas so your child can’t just retreat to their bedroom and watch TV. If your kids really love video games, encourage them to play games that require physical activity.
Eat healthier. Again, make sure you are setting a good example. If you want your child to drink a glass of milk at dinner or water instead of soda, you should do the same. Making healthy choices in your own diet will help reinforce the importance to your child. Get creative while you are cooking. Add veggies to your marinara sauce when you serve spaghetti or have fresh fruit for dessert. Involving your child in the process of helping you grocery shop or cook will most likely result in them being much more open to trying something new.
Incorporate your child’s interests. For the parents of an athletic child, promoting physical activity isn’t much of a problem-just send them off to soccer practice. However, if your child isn’t that interested in kicking or hitting a ball, you can still work with their existing interests to get them out and moving around. For example, an artistic child might really enjoy taking a nature hike to snap photos or collect leaves for a collage. Take your avid reader to the library, but bike or walk instead of hopping in the car. Have an animal lover? Walk the dog together. Make it less about exercise and more about getting out and being active.
Visit your local YMCA. The YMCA has numerous programs that promote healthy living for both parents and children. Between youth sports, youth fitness, group exercise and personal training, the Y offers every family opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle. Because the Y knows that healthy lifestyles are achieved through nurturing mind, body and spirit, well-being and fitness at the Y are about so much more than just working out. Beyond fitness facilities, the Y provides educational programs to promote healthier decisions and offers a variety of programs that support physical, intellectual and spiritual strength. Visit www.ymcadallas.org
Gordon Echtenkamp is the President/CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. He has held this position since January 2002. Gordie is a native of the Midwest, growing up in Fremont, Nebraska. He spent hundreds of hours in the Fremont YMCA as a Gra-Y kid and finally as a youth club leader while in high school. His professional career began at the Kansas City YMCA in 1976, where he worked for seven years before moving to positions with YMCAs in Memphis, Houston, Phoenix and Des Moines before returning to Texas in 2002. Gordie is a recovering runner and a driving-range golfer. He and his wife Kassie, a teacher at Parish Episcopal School, have two sons.