This idea, of our children suffering through illness makes the heart sink. The research showing that the children of today will live a sicker life and die at a younger age has brought this terrifying idea to reality. New reports show that high blood sugar levels, sedentary lifestyles, obesity, atrocious diets, and cigarette smoking are all leading causes to a dramatic drop in cardiovascular health in teens from the ages of 12 to 19. These formative years are where our focus should lie. Dietary and nutritional education during these years is pertinent to stymying premature death. If the aforementioned unhealthy habits can be prevented during an early age, we can help the children of today live healthier longer lives. We’ve all heard the saying, “big things have small beginnings.” That simple truth binds us.
The first change that should be made among children is an increased level of physical activity. It has been reported that only approximately 52 percent of boys and 38 percent of girls had an ideal level of physical activity1. Physical inactivity has a direct correlation to the rising obesity epidemic in our country. If 35 percent of children are either overweight or obese, it is in our best interest to step in and make a change. A recommended 60 minutes of activity for all children would be ideal. According to Ian Janssen and Allana G LeBlanc, Evidence-based data are strong to conclude that physical activity has beneficial effects on adiposity (within overweight and obese youth), musculoskeletal health and fitness, and several components of cardiovascular health2. Moreover, keeping children active will reduce their risk in obtaining high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Giving our children a motivational nudge to get moving, as opposed to watching TV and playing video games, would be advantageous to their long-term health.
Inactivity has a synergistic effect with poor dietary choices. Today’s youth lack of whole foods and abundant consumption of processed, quick and easily prepared foods is putting their health at further risk.
These diets are in desperate need of lean protein, fiber, fruits and veggies. TV dinners and frozen pizza have become pervasive in our culture, slowly supplanting quality whole foods. Kids’ diets today are high in sodium and sugars which ultimately leads to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes when gone untreated3. In fact, a study conducted in 2009 found that only 1 percent of children were getting their full daily servings of fruits and vegetables! But as parents we do not always help. By allowing our kids to eat sugary breakfast cereals, we are essentially letting them eat Twinkies for breakfast4!
We need to educate our children and ourselves to help their future. Our diets and physical activity are something we have control over. If we can modify the current habits of today, we will create a much happier and longer future for our children.
- AHA. Physical activity and children. Available at: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Physical-Activity-and-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp
- Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A. G. (2010). Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. International Journal of 3.Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7(1), 40. Available at: https://www.ijbnpa.org/content
- CDC. High sodium intake in children and adolescents: cause for concern. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/salt/pdfs/children_sodium.pdf
- Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Available at: https://www.jamieoliver.com/us/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/news-content/proof-why-we-need-a-food-revolution