Results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years are obese; and the Surgeon General’s Office now provides more specific information:
- Nearly 34 percent of children and adolescents in the United Statesare either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
- Although the trend toward obesity appears to be stabilizing, the number of overweight children has more than tripled over the past 30 years.
- Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent likelihood of becoming overweight adults.
The risk factors for other complications from obesity are very serious, and include high blood pressure and other heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cance — providing excellent motivation to try to ‘eat well to feel well.’
The report also explored the challenging nature of these issues, since the social consequence of being noticeably overweight is often experienced as discrimination and isolation — often associated with low self-esteem and feelings of depression. This can lead to a lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating patterns, and this becomes a cycle of behavior that can be quite difficult to overcome and “break through,” to turn things around.
The Children’s Fitness Clinic at the University of Virginia was established in 2003, in order to provide assessment and individual treatment plans, and to assist family physicians by offering a multi-disciplinary team approach – working with nurses, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, psychologists, exercise physiologists, and surgeons, to try to substitute new attitudes and new habits for healthier, happier children…
The initial effort extended an invitation to all kids who were enrolled to take part in a six-month Intensive Lifestyle Modification Program that would assist in maintaining the child’s current weight — so that he or she would actually “grow into” it over time – instead of their having to “lose” weight, they are challenged not to gain any new weight over time, as would normally occur during childhood years.
The Clinic offers parents a number of excellent suggestions:
- Follow the Food Guide Pyramid as your map for healthy eating. Encourage your child to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal and introduce them to a large variety.
- Encourage your child to eat breakfast every day and model this behavior.
- Watch portions of your child’s food.
- Choose healthy options when eating out.
- Drink healthy beverages.
- Avoid drinks with more than 10 calories/serving.
- For more nutrition tips, go to EatRight.org.
- Your child should participate in at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day… 2 hours is even better!
The folks at the Clinic also point out that there are many local resources available — for walking, biking swimming and other more structured physical activities — for both children and adults in our area offered through the Charlottesville City Parks and Recreation programs and Albemarle County Parks and Recreation programs..
Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day, using TV, hand-held games, and video and computer games.
Above all, children thrive well in an enironment where all individual are treated with respect and invited to share their own unique gifts and talents.
The Children’s Fitness Clinic is open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; and on Friday from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm, and can be reached by phone at 434/982.1607.