September 1, 2010 marks the beginning of a month-long initiative to increase awareness of the negative health consequences that our nation’s children are facing as a result of the obesity epidemic. Nearly one-third of American children are overweight or obese, putting them at an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. American adults need to take steps that foster healthy eating and physical activity habits in children that will promote proper growth and development while reducing the likelihood of excessive weight gain.
Changes to lifestyle should be presented in a manner that positively engages children and that gives them a sense of mastery. Simple steps can be taken in the home from which all family members can benefit. Some healthy lifestyle activities that you can do as a family, and with your neighbors and friends, to celebrate National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month include:
Host a healthy eating themed neighborhood block party. Ask each neighbor to bring a low-calorie, low-sodium, and/or low-fat dish to pass. Games and activities made available should be centered around healthy eating and physical activity. For example, instead of having a pie or hot dog eating contest, try a corn-on-the-cob eating contest. Or, give the old tried-and-true potato sack race a whirl to encourage getting active in a fun way.
Recruit your child to help you sift through their old active gear, such as bikes, roller blades, skate boards, scooters, etc., that they have outgrown but can be donated to children in need. This action will not only help to strengthen your child’s heart, but that of those who will be receiving these exercise-promoting items.
Make family game night active. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to play a game of football if you are not a fan, a few rounds of charades should suffice. The point is to get up and get moving.