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Are Overweight Kids Always Lazy or Do They Just Overeat?

Updated on July 7, 2019
Lorra Garrick profile image

Former ACE-certified personal trainer Lorra Garrick has trained men and women for fat loss, muscle building, and more strength and fitness.

One can make the argument that as a general rule, obese children are lazy – if lazy is defined as leading a sedentary life filled with many daily hours in front of a screen and zero involvement in athletic or other physical pursuits.

The argument seems valid when one visits any venue in which young kids are being active, such as an indoor water park, Little League, youth soccer, tennis and basketball games, martial arts schools, dance schools, etc.

At such venues you’ll spot very few children who fit the medical criteria for obesity, but you’ll see more (but not most of all the kids) who are overweight.

You’re more likely to see hefty children in Little League or at an indoor water park than in youth basketball, volleyball and tennis.

If you’re an avid hiker, you certainly know that it’s rare to see overweight kids on the trails. This isn’t because they can’t hike. It’s because, perhaps, their parents never consider the possibility that overweight kids CAN hike.

Based on what is clearly observed in life, it’s safe to bet that the vast majority of obese and overweight children lead sedentary, or “lazy” lives.

The fact that many normal-weight kids are sedentary, lazy and not involved in sports is…not relevant other than to point out that kids of all sizes should be involved in a sport, as this cultivates self-discipline and offers many other benefits.

Does a Lazy Life Cause Obesity in Kids?

Not directly. But many hours in front of a screen encourages overeating, particularly of high-calorie junk food.

But not all kids who spend a lot of time watching TV or with a computer care to eat while doing so.

Though most very physically active kids aren’t obese or even overweight, and it seems that most kids who never “run around and play” or participate in sports are overweight and especially obese, some overweight children are actually quite physically active.

The problem is their diet.

It’s entirely possible and highly probable that the chubby 10-year-old girl who skateboards and plays soccer lives in a home with too much junk food.

Maybe her mother rewards her with ice cream and cookies. Maybe she piles her tray during lunch at school. Maybe dinner is often high calorie processed foods from a box. Maybe the pantry is always stocked with plenty of soda and munchies.

So instead of just encouraging overweight kids to be more active, a finer look must be taken at what, and how much, they’re eating.

Morbidly obese adults often say that they were “big” as a child and were taken to doctors to find out why they were overweight – even though the reason wasn’t medical; it was behavioral – as in eating way too much.

Few were involved in athletics, with the exception of perhaps high school softball or junior high school football.

There is definitely a correlation between athletic involvement (lack thereof) and childhood obesity.

Athletic Involvement Should Be Mandatory

All kids will benefit from sports participation. The benefits are almost endless:

  • Learn to set goals
  • Learn to be part of a team
  • Brain exercise in the form of learning strategic maneuvers and plays
  • Confidence and self-esteem booster
  • Discourage smoking, drinking and drug use
  • Better physical fitness – even if the participant is obese
  • Encourage healthier eating for better sports performance

As for children who are too heavy to effectively participate in the more popular sports such as soccer or any activity that requires running or quick agile movements, they still have options.

For instance, martial arts is a very friendly activity to the overweight, even very obese. Very heavy kids can also go on hikes.

Teens who carry excess weight can compete in powerlifting competitions – events just for teenagers – and don’t have to do any running, jumping or quick changes of direction.

Obese Kids Don’t Have to Be Lazy

It’s all up to the parents to introduce them to physical activities. For every hour of screen time, a child – regardless of weight – should be required to engage in at least 30 minutes of sustained physical activity. Be creative. This can include:

  • Kite flying on a windy day
  • Inline skating
  • Bicycling
  • Water activities
  • Bowling
  • Tennis
  • Ping pong
  • Rock wall climbing
  • Group fitness classes just for youth
  • Walking the dog
  • Vacuuming your car
  • Anything to keep them moving.

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