In the last 30 years, childhood obesity rates in Canada have nearly tripled. These children and youth are at a higher risk of developing health problems and remaining obese as adults.
Part of the problem is over-consumption of sugary beverages such as fruit-flavoured juice, soft drinks and sports drinks. Another major factor is the lack of physical activity among children and youth. While it is recommended that children aged 5-17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily, only 9 percent of Canadian children are actually meeting that recommendation.
Benefits of physical activity
Children who do meet the physical activity recommendation have leaner body composition, less fat and are less likely to become overweight.
Physical activity is essential for children, and not just to manage and maintain a healthy body weight:
- Children’s muscles and bones become and stay stronger through exercise
- Children who exercise are less like to develop chronic diseases
- Childhood mental disorders can be improved through exercise
- Children who exercise experience better cognitive performance and focus
- Children who exercise have more rapid reaction times
- Exercise helps children sleep better
- Physical activity can help kids cope with stress
- Physical activity promotes social interaction
- Exercise develops cardiovascular fitness and strengthens the heart
Additionally, when kids establish healthy lifestyle patterns at a young age, they carry them forward into adulthood.
Health problems associated with obesity
On the other hand, children who are obese are more likely to develop high blood pressure or heart disease, type-2 diabetes, breathing problems, bone and joint problems, low self-esteem and negative body image.
Becoming physically active
Exercise comes in many forms. It is important that your child participates in activity that they enjoy, whether it is part of a team or an individual activity. Become aware of the opportunities your community offers.
Here are a few examples:
- Scootering, in-line skating or skateboarding
- Hiking, walking, running, playing tag, cycling or skipping
- Hockey, soccer, lacrosse, basketball or football
- Swimming, gymnastics, dancing, tennis, martial arts or wall climbing
- Playground activities
- Yard work
- Yoga or stretching routines
- Supervised weight training with body weight, tubing and bands or dumbbells
Physical activity can also include everyday activities such as walking the dog, shovelling the driveway and doing household chores. Encourage your children to walk or ride their bikes to school instead of taking the bus if that is an option.
Remember to set a positive example by being physically active yourself. Plan regular outings with your family to hike, cycle, walk or skate.