Childhood obesity rates continue to rise, causing national controversy

What we need to know and how to reverse the trend will begin with education for families, parents, children and community members. This will be the catalyst for changing behavior and move us all to healthier choices and environments.

Childhood obesity rates are rising, causing national controversy – but what do we need to know and how do we begin reversing the trend? It will begin with education for families, parents, children and community members. This will be the catalyst for changing behavior and move us all to healthier choices and environments.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research has found childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The percentage of children ages six to 11 in the United States during 1980 who were obese increased from seven percent to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents ages 12 to 19 years who were obese increased from five percent to 18 percent over the same period. In 2008, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Being overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height, from fat, muscle, bone, water or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.

Calorie recommendations developed in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans vary by age and activity level, but generally speaking the following chart can help.

Age

Calories

2-5 years

1,000-1,400

6-10 years

1,400-2,000

11-15 years

1,800-2,200

16-18 years

2,400-3,200

Suggestions for including each food group with servings per day are also included in the below chart.

Calories

Fruits

Vegetables

Grain

Protein

Dairy

1,400

1 ½ cup

1 ½ cup

5 ounces

4 ounces

2 ½ cups

2,200

2 cups

3 cups

7 ounces

6 ounces

3 cups

3,200

2 ½ cups

4 cups

10 ounces

7 ounces

3 cups

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calorie intake along with regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes a healthy body weight and body composition. The key guidelines for children and adolescents recommend 60 minutes (one hour) or more of physical activity daily, which consists of the following three types:

  1. Aerobic: Most of the 60 (or more minutes) a day should be either moderate or vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous intense physical activity at least three days a week. The other minutes should be broken up between:
  2. Muscle strengthening at least three days per week.
  3. Bone strengthening at least three days per week

It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and offer variety. For ideas, motivation and resources check out Get Active! Let’s Move.

As state and federal government work to create and support good policy, communities can be empowered with the information available to create healthy environments for kids to thrive. One part of community efforts includes Michigan State University Extension, which provides Show Me Nutrition education series that is proven to impact student behaviors toward healthy choices at a personal level and within families.

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