As we all know, obesity has been on the rise for many, many years around the country, and studies have continuously pointed to Alabama as one of the most obese states in the nation. Many factors have contributed to this trend- from a decline in neighborhood safety and greater availability of fast food to more snacking throughout the day and increased time that children sit in front of screens of all sizes. We are now seeing more medical problems in children and adults at alarmingly young ages that are related to obesity and having less active lifestyles.
Physicians have noticed this trend, and we, as a medical community, are working hard to not only slow these changes, but reverse them. With children, the easiest way to address obesity is to stop it before it starts. Now that kids are out of school, summer is the perfect time to be more active and get on the road to a healthier lifestyle! Here are some tips for your children, and the rest of the family, to have a healthier summer.
1. Get 60 minutes of exercise per day. Do something to get your heart rate elevated for at least one hour every day. That can be dancing, walking the dog, playing outside, swimming – almost anything you can think of! There are also many summer day camps available around Mobile that will help keep your children active. Visit www.MobileBayParents.com and click on Guides for a complete list of Summer Camps.
2. Eat healthy snacks. Everybody’s days are busy and jam-packed, and it is so easy to grab chips or dessert snacks to eat when out of the house. Try to grab fruits or vegetables instead. Carrot sticks or broccoli, tangerines, and even apple crisp chips are all quick and easy snacks that are healthy and quick to grab as you head out for the day.
3. Drink water instead of sodas and sweet tea. Instead of the sodas or extra large glasses of sweet tea, grab a bottle of water. For the younger kids, fill their sippy cups with water or watered down juice (1/4 juice and 3/4 water). If you or your children do not enjoy the taste of water, try flavoring packets. They will turn a bottle of water into lemonade or fruit punch, and some have no sugar and as few as 5 calories per packet. As Southerners, we all love our sweet tea, but all of that sugar just increases the calorie count. Try to limit your family’s intake of sweet tea, or make your sweet tea with Splenda or another sugar substitute to help decrease the calorie intake.
4. Limit “screen time” to two hours or less a day. Technology advances further and further every year, and kids are becoming tech savvy at much earlier ages. This certainly has its advantages, but one major disadvantage is that people are becoming more sedentary. Children may already sit in school for six or more hours a day, but now instead of playing outside or riding a bike when they get home, children are sitting to watch TV, movies, or play video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended limiting “screen time” to two hours a day or less and encourage them to go outside and have fun.
Let’s make it our goal as a community this summer to help encourage the children of Mobile to become more active and live healthier lives!