Around two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese.
So what can be done and what are physiotherapists doing specifically to combat the problem among children? For the first time in a century, we may be about to enter an era where children’s life expectancy will drop. If current trends continue, obesity will shortly surpass smoking as the greatest cause of premature loss of life.
Obesity in childhood can be linked with serious illness such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Making sure children have sufficient exercise is one of the key factors for preventing child obesity. Physiotherapists are experts in movement and exercise, and the ways in which it promotes health.
Most overweight or obese children become overweight or obese adults; overweight and obese adults are more likely to bring up overweight or obese children.
Physical activity is any movement of the body that requires the use of our skeletal muscles, which in turn requires energy expenditure. This energy expenditure is basic to weight control. Aerobic exercise prescriptions and recommendations for strength/resistance training must go hand in hand with reduced food intake, and the progression of activity should be gradual, scientifically based, and tailored individually to each person.
It is important that children as well as adults have a health check before they suddenly start doing vigorous exercise. When an adult or child has been living a more sedentary lifestyle the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues are not conditioned to sudden bouts of exercise and can be easily torn or damaged. Having a health check can make sure there are no underlying issues that could be preventing a child from exercising.
Making sure your child exercises for at least an hour a day, giving them healthy food, creating a restful sleeping environment and a bedtime ritual means that your child will be ready to sleep once they’ve been tucked in and it’s time to turn out the light.
It is important that the physiotherapist finds the most appropriate activity for the child, so that they will not only enjoy the activity but also have a greater chance of staying with it. There are numerous types of exercise prescriptions that the physiotherapist may use in their increasing effort to battle the obesity epidemic.
From Picky Eaters to Budding Chefs
Get your children in on the act from grocery shopping to preparing some simple meals. The more involved they get, the more likely they are to get excited about mealtime. Even a 3-year-old can rinse vegetables or snap string beans. Let older kids add ingredients or (carefully) mix batters and sauces that are not on the stove. While you are shopping, ask your child what types of foods she likes to eat. Let her pick the vegetable that will be accompanying that night’s dinner and remember to share her good work with the family that night, praising her choices and hard work.
Set a Good Example for Your Picky Eaters: If you eat lots of good foods, so will your child.
Stretch of the Month
Just like adults, kids need to stretch their bodies. Especially during growth spurts, children’s and teens’ muscles may be tight. Make kids’ stretching a part of their regular routine.
This yoga pose is a good way for kids to begin and/or end a stretching session.
- Kneel with feet touching and knees apart.
- Slowly bend over and touch forehead to floor.
- Arms can be at the sides, palms facing up, or extended in front of the head with palms on the floor.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply.
- Hold child’s pose for 3 to 5 breaths.