Childhood obesity is on the rise, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that increased screen time is one of the culprits. Kids are spending more time in front of the computer and on the couch than playing outside.
More than half of television advertisements directed at children promote unhealthy foods like candy, sugary snacks, soft drinks and fast food. These advertisements are also encouraging kids to stay sitting by promoting movies, video games and other TV shows. The number of children who are overweight or obese has doubled in the last two to three decades. In the United States, one out of five children is overweight and more than 15 percent are considered to be obese. As scary as these figures sound, what's even scarier is that overweight and obesity cause a variety of short-term and long-term health problems for children and adults such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, stress and depression. In addition to these problems, overweight and obesity contribute to 14 to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths.
So let's turn off those TVs and encourage kids to get active. Regular physical activity may reduce the risk of certain cancers and contribute to a healthy body weight. Physical activity may also help prevent type 2 diabetes, which is associated with an increased risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas and other sites.
The American Cancer Society recommends that children and adolescents engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity five days per week. This can be as simple as taking your kids to a park, walking the dog, or playing catch in the yard. No matter what, the bottom line is to get moving.
The American Cancer Society recommends children and adults eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. And by fruits, I don't mean fruit snacks or grape soda. Stick an apple instead of a cookie in your kid's lunch or try to sneak some broccoli on their pizza instead of sausage. It's also important to choose whole grain foods over processed or refined foods. Making these kinds of changes can help reduce body weight and make it ok to have treats once in a while.
Schools are joining the new health craze by offering healthy alternatives to burgers and fries, like salad bars and baked foods. They also are offering more opportunities for physical activity like better PE classes and intramural sports.
The most important thing you can do to help your child is to be a good role model. Children learn their eating and exercise habits from their parents, so it's important that you adopt a healthy lifestyle as well. So turn off that TV, get moving and get healthy!
For more information on TV-Turnoff Week, visit screentime.org.