HAMILTON, Ohio -- Rather than focus on giving up sweets and junk food, children should concentrate on eating healthy and being active to maintain a healthy weight, experts say.
All agree that losing weight can be tough, especially for children whose environment surrounds them with sodas, fries and candy.
"I believe you can be healthy at any size. But when children watch four hours of TV per day or (are) just not going outside and playing .. we need to try to encourage children to be more active," said Dan Remley, family and consumer science and community development agent for The Ohio State University Butler County Extension Office.
"Encourage them to be more active by participating more in (physical education classes), and help communities to be more walkable and pedestrian friendly so children don't have to take the bus." According to the 1999-2000 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 9 million children, aged 6-19, are overweight.
That's triple the proportion from 1980.
"The problem keeps getting worse," said Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services. "We've seen virtually a doubling in the number of obese persons over the past two decades and this has profound health implications. Obesity increases a person's risk for a number of serious conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some types of cancer." The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these suggestions to help children who are overweight or have the potential to be: -- Consider your child's family history, birth weight, socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural or environmental surroundings.
-- Calculate and plot your son or daughter's Body Mass Index or BMI once a year to identify excessive weight gain relative to linear growth.
-- Promote healthy eating patterns and offer nutritious snacks like vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy foods and whole grains.
-- Encourage self-regulation of food intake and set appropriate limits on choices.
-- Promote physical activity, including unstructured play at home, in school, in child care settings and throughout the community.
-- Limit TV and video games to a maximum of two hours per day.
-- Help all who influence youth, such as coaches, to discuss health habits, as part of their efforts to control overweight and obesity.
-- Enlist policy makers from local, state, and national organizations and schools to support a healthful lifestyle for all children, including proper diet and adequate opportunity for regular physical activity.
-- Encourage organizations responsible for health care and health care financing to provide coverage for effective obesity prevention and treatment strategies.
-- Encourage public and private sources to direct funding toward research into effective strategies to prevent overweight and obesity and to maximize limited family and community resources to achieve healthful outcomes for youth.
-- Support marketing intended to promote healthful food choices and increased physical activity.
"One of the most significant concerns from a public health perspective is that we know a lot of children who are overweight grow up to be overweight or obese adults," said CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding.
"Thus at greater risk for some major health problems such as heart disease and diabetes." Generally, children who are trying to lose weight should focus on being healthy no matter their size.
"Find a physical activity that increases your child's breathing and they enjoy doing," Remley said. "It's not easy to do when the environment is not fostering healthy behaviors." Carmen M. Henderson writes for the Hamilton JournalNews. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Notes:Story Filed By Cox Newspapers For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service
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