What is Causing the Rise in Childhood Obesity?
There is nothing sadder than someone losing their life at a young age and, when obesity is sweeping through the childhood of many people we know, the sadness seems to be gaining ground. When you start out your life in an unhealthy environment, it sticks with you and it's a struggle to overcome old habits and outside influences, when you get older.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, only 5% of children in the United States, ages 2 to 19, were considered obese in the years 1971 to 1974. But in 2009 to 2010 that number had risen to 16.9%, and that's a 238% increase in the past 39 years.
But what is causing the increased rate of childhood obesity in the United States? Who or what should we blame? How can we extend the lives of future generations so that they can live longer, healthier lives?
Are Video Games and TV to Blame?
Well, according to the Generation M2 Study, children in the age range of 8 to 18 were playing video games on average 26 minutes a day, in 1999. But by 2009 they were playing video games 73 minutes a day. That's a 181% increase in just 10 years! So, that means that kids in 2009 were spending about 5% of their time, out of the 24 hours in a day, in front of a video game.
And, according to the Three Screen Reports and The Cross-Platform Reports, children in the age range of 2 to 17 were watching TV on average 101 hours per month, in 2008. But by the first quarter of 2012 they were watching TV 106 hours a month. That's a 5% increase in just 4 years! So, that means that kids in 2012 were spending about 15% of their time, out of the 24 hours in a day, in front of their TV. Add that to their video game time and you see how 20% of their day is spent.
Can We Blame Cell Phones and Computers?
Well, according to the MRI American Kids Studies, 11.9% of children in the age range of 6 to 11 owned their own cell phone, in 2005. But by 2009, 20% of children now owned cell phones. That's a 68% increase in just 4 years! So, that means that a good percentage of kids as young as 6 years old have access to their own little portable computer. Now, there's nothing wrong with giving your kid a phone, to use to call you to pick them up or to be sure that they're safe, but most phones these days have access to the internet, texting, games, apps and other things that don't really help them in terms of staying healthy.
And, according to the Generation M2 Study, children in the age range of 8 to 18 were using a computer, for recreational uses, on average 27 minutes a day, in 1999. But by 2009 they were playing on their computers 89 minutes a day. That's a 230% increase in just 10 years! So, that means that kids in 2009 were spending about 6% of their time, out of the 24 hours in a day, in front of a computer. Add that to their video game and TV time and you see how 26% of their day is spent.
Is THAT What's Keeping Kids from Going Outside?
Well, according to An Investigation of the Status of Outdoor Play, the childhood of mothers is quite different when you compare it to their own children, ages 3 to 12. For instance, 70% of mothers played outside ever single day, when they were kids, but only 31% of their own kids play outside every day. So, mothers were more than twice as likely to get to play outside every single day.
And when they actually got to go outside, 56% of mothers spent at least 3 hours outside at a time, when they were kids, but only 22% of their own kids spent that long outside in one shot. So again, mothers were more than twice as likely to get to play outside for at least 3 hours at a time.
And when you look at the fact that kids are spending around 26% of their day in front of some kind of screen, it's quite possible that we've found some suspects. You see, if you spend 8 hours sleeping at night, 33% of your day is taken up by sleep. So, that leaves about 67% of awake time in a day; 16 hours. So, we have to modify the screen time percentage, to reflect the time that kids are awake, since you can't watch TV, play video games or play on the computer in your sleep. So in reality, kids are spending at least 39% of the time they are awake in front of some kind of electronic distraction, and that's not even including the time they spend with their cell phone!
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What Can You Do TODAY to End Childhood Obesity?
Well, keeping your kids' nutrition in check can definitely help things progress in the right direction, but think about it... Did you eat a lot of junk food when you were a kid? I mean sure, you probably had a good amount of healthy food, but there was probably plenty of fast food, candy and soda as well, right? You ate whatever was given to you!
But how could you get away with that as a kid, and the children of today can't? Well, did you spend most of your time playing outside, when you were a kid? I mean, there were trees to climb, trampolines to jump on and basketballs that needed thrown into hoops. So, you kept your metabolism revved up, because it was fun!
But when kids have all these distractions keeping them inside, and when they do go outside their face is glued to their cell phone screen, then all the junk food and even all the healthy food they eat now has a chance to really help them pack on the pounds. So, could getting outside with your kids more often actually help end childhood obesity?
I think so! And that's why I've been posting videos and pictures of all the trips I go on, to help inspire kids and their parents to step outside a little more often themselves.