Childhood Obesity Won’t Be Easy, Expert Says
JAN. 10---Childhood obesity
has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and
Canada. While the problem is easily understood, it will
not be as easily solved, says one expert.
"The causes of
childhood obesity are not difficult to understand," says
Dr. Bob Keith, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System
nutritionist. "Basically we have two things going against
kids: a plentiful supply of food, which often tends to be
high in calories and full of fat and sugar, and a lack of
While the wide
access to high-caloric food is a serious enough problem,
Keith believes the second factor -- lack of physical
activity -- contributes significantly to obesity in young
The problem of
physical inactivity among young people, noted by experts
as far back as 20 years ago, has spiked within the last
decade – a factor Keith attributes to the ever-increasing
availability of visual media.
1980, computers and video games have just boomed," he
says. "Coupled with that is the explosion of
cable-television channels, which offer kids more viewing
selections than ever before," he says.
The result is
a generation of children who are turning to visual media
for the stimulation that earlier generations derived from
physical activities such as touch football or basketball.
"I often think
about how different things were 20 years ago when kids
were outside playing sports and burning calories instead
of sitting inside playing sports video games on the
computer," he says. "What you have is a generation that
has to make an effort to be physically active. Unless they
think about it, they can go an entire day without being
complicating factor is the number of schools that have
phased out mandatory physical education after the
result, Keith says, is a rising generation of young people
prone to the diseases that affected earlier, more
physically active generations much later in life:
hypertension, cardiovascular disease and adult-onset
he says, the solutions won’t be easy, and the problem is
likely to get worse.
take away computers, because they’ve now become an
integral part of their lifestyle," he says. "Kids are
going to play video games and watch all of these
television programs despite all of our best efforts."
As Keith sees
it, part of the solution should involve re-introducing
mandatory physical activities in the public schools,
especially in middle schools and high schools.
parents can take a more proactive role encouraging their
kids to remain active -- even taking part in physical
activity with them in some instances.
can develop creative ways to help their children become
more physically active.
have to be as structured as sports, but it has to be
something that keeps you moving and burning calories, such
as bicycling, walking and gardening."
shown obese children have an exceptionally hard time
losing weight and following through with lifestyle changes
in adulthood when their health, and even their lives, may
depend on them – all the more reason why parents should
encourage kids to remain physically active throughout
childhood, Keith says.
Robert Keith, Alabama Cooperative Extension