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Growing American Children

American children are growing each year, not only in height but also in weight. National statistics show that 10% to 15% of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight (Lemonick). Although 15% may seem like a small number, that represents about nine million obese children. This is a major problem because overweight children will often battle weight issues for their entire life. A child is considered to be at risk to be overweight if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) above the 85th percentile and they are considered to be overweight if they are classified above the 95th percentile. In most cases childhood obesity turns into adult obesity because the child is never able to loose the extra pounds gained in their youth. The extra weight the person is forced to carry can have serious effects on that person??™s health, such as heart and circulatory problems, bone and joint issues, gall bladder problems and even some forms of cancer (Kluger). Overcoming obesity can be a simple task if the person educates themselves on living a healthy life style. One cause of the obesity epidemic is that the overweight youth are not educated in important health topics, such as nutrition and physical education. Due to this lack of education they are not able to make informed choices about their health. Another cause of this problem is lack of activity. Before youth obesity became a problem, children played out doors on a daily basis, now most children play indoors, in front of computer or television screens. The youth obesity epidemic in America is caused by the lack of activity and poor nutrition. To overcome this problem, there should be mandatory health, nutrition and physical education classes in schools.
Some may say that people come in many different shapes and sizes. Although, it is natural for humans to have different builds, there is a difference between being comfortable with your body type and being overweight or obese. An obese person is different from an overweight person because obesity is more serious. Obesity affects the person??™s life on a more daily basis. Simple tasks like walking become a great chore. Additional weight added as a youth, can cause serious health problems in adulthood. It is important to look at who is encouraging children to take part in unhealthy activities that may lead to weight issues. Most often it is large corporations, such as food and entertainment companies, who are looking to promote their products. Soda companies are well known for targeting young children in their advertisements; however, soda is one of the least healthy beverages for a child. One twenty ounce can of soda contains about seventeen teaspoons of sugar, which is equivalent to 250 empty calories. The average child would have to bike ride for several hours to burn those calories (Sayre). Some may argue that children should be able to participate in whatever activities they choose. However, some popular activities among children, such as television and computer games, can be dangerous to their health. Although, in the short term these activities may seem harmless, that is not the case. The amount of time a child spends in front of a television, takes away from the time they could spend exercising or playing active games. As stated earlier, some problems associated with obesity are heart problems, circulatory issues and even cancer. Popular belief may be that it is possible to be healthy and obese, or that a child can play stationary games and remain healthy, are both false. Children need exercise and motivation to reduce their weight; this will also reduce health issues related to obesity.
It is also important to question why youth obesity has recently become such a large problem in the United States. Cheryl De Pinto, Medical director for school and adolescent health for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stated, ???Since 1960 the number of children who are overweight or obese has tripled??? (Gavin). In order to fix the problem, it is necessary to look at the cause and determine what can be done differently. In the past twenty years the number of overweight children from ages six to eleven has doubled and the number of overweight teenagers has tripled (Gavin). Those numbers clearly show that something needs to be changed in the typical American life. The best way to change a problem is to learn from past mistakes. Lack of education on health issues is one reason why children are becoming overweight, another is that there are more sedentary activities for children now, than there were twenty years ago. When the parents today were children; most played outdoors on a regular basis. It was common for neighborhood children to meet up and play games in the street. However, today that is rarely seen. Children tend to stay cooped up at home, where it is easier for their guardians to watch them. The lack of activity and the bad habit of staying in doors, are both leading to the cause of the youth obesity epidemic.
Physical education courses in schools are no longer a successful way of teaching children to exercise. In the past children may have received sufficient exercise in school, but that is not the case today. Some school districts have cut out physical education entirely from their curriculums. Other districts have cut funding so the courses are not up to a young body??™s needs. If a child does not take a physical education class during the school day, as many do not, this puts them at a desk for about six hours each day. Also, in addition to sitting at a desk all day, junior high and high school students receive many hours of homework each night. This forces these teenagers to spend even more time participating in sedentary activities, such as reading text books or researching on the internet. If schools increased funding for physical education, there would be a decrease in the number of obese children. If a child learns fun ways to exercise in school, then they are more likely to exercise at home. Lack of activity is a major cause of the recent weight gain of American children.
At home children are not learning the fundamentals for a healthy life style. ???Children do what parents do??? (Kluger). If children do not see active parents then they are more likely to adapt a sedentary life style, similar to that of their adult role models. There are many easy, fun ways to receive more exercise throughout the day. Parents could walk with their children to and from school, or families could go for a walk or ride bikes through the neighborhood. Even another simple way to exercise is to play games like tag or Simon Says; these games can be played with out leaving the house. Simple games are an easy way for children to have fun while exercising. It is not necessary to pay a trainer or buy expensive equipment; all that is needed is an open mind. Parents need to take action to stop the youth obesity problem. They set an example for their children, therefore, they should teach their children to exercise, because that will help them lead a happy life. Exercise inside the home is equally as important as physical education at school. If all children found just one more fun way to exercise each day, youth obesity would no longer be an issue.
Nutrition is a large part of the youth obesity problem in America. There are so
many unhealthy food choices that are fast and inexpensive. However, if the parent and
child are well educated and prepared they can eat healthy, good tasting food and stay
on a budget and schedule. Children should be eating vegetables, fruits and whole
grains instead of soft drinks, white flour and candy. In addition to fast food being more
convenient for the parents, food can also be a source of comfort for a child. It is
important for children to learn about healthy eating habits early in life so that they will
never look to food for comfort. Parents can help their children by making small, but
permanent, changes. For example choosing Subway over Burger King for dinner or
substituting whole grain bread for white bread on sandwiches. These little changes add
up and can get a child back to a healthy weight, as well as help them learn to keep the
weight off. When people learn to make the correct food decisions as well as exercise,
there will no longer be a weight problem in the United States.

There are three steps that need to be taken to stop the youth obesity epidemic. The first step is the responsibility of the school. Each school district should encourage children to participate in athletics. To accomplish this they should give all student athletes, regardless of the sport, respect. This would give students the initiative to make the time to exercise. There should also be mandatory nutrition classes. If children are well educated on nutrition then they can make healthy food choices. Making healthy decisions in nutrition will lead them to a healthy life style. The second step is the responsibility of the parents. Parents need to become more involved in their child??™s health. In addition to setting an example for their children, parents should provide their children with healthy food options and fun ways to exercise. Although the school district and the parents play a large role in lowering the obesity rate the ultimate outcome is up the children. They have to be willing to make the small changes that can give them a better life. Therefore, the third step is to educate children as to why their health should be important to them. Everyone should know what affects their health decisions may have on their body and their life.
To stop the youth obesity health crisis, immediate action needs to be taken. Children in America should participate in more sports programs. Although common sports, such as basketball and soccer, are excellent forms of exercise, there are many other sports in which an athlete can physically exert themselves. If every family in the United States made a few small changes in their daily diet and exercise, then youth obesity would drastically decrease. For example, a family may choose to walk to school instead of drive and make sure to have at least two vegetables each day. These simple changes can alter an entire way of life. If Americans continue gaining weight at this rate, there will be drastic problems in the future. It is important to change the ways of American life today so that the United States can be a healthy country in the future. Enough people are suffering from obesity today. Overall health and happiness are worth the time spent exercising and the changes in diet. The youth obesity crisis is caused by the lack of activities children participate in and the lack of nutrition education. If simple steps are taken the youth obesity epidemic, in America, can finally be stopped.

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Article-Time, ???School Cuisine??? 06/23/08
Sayre, Carolyn

Article- Time, ???How America??™s Children Packed on the Pounds??? 06/23/08
Kluger, Jeffery

Article-Time, ???How We Grew So Big Diet??? 06/07/04
Lemonick, Micheal D.

Website-www.kidsdata.org

Website-www.kidshealth.org, ???Overweight and Obesity??? 06/08
Gavin, Mary L. MD

Book- Guide to Nutrition 04/10/07
American Diet Association

Book- Afraid to Eat 12/01/00
Berg, Francie M.