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September 7, 2018

Tackling Childhood Obesity is a Family Affair

By Lalita Llerena

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and while you’ve probably heard about the dangers of being overweight or obese, you may find it hard to make the necessary lifestyle changes as a family. Together we can learn healthy behaviors, and community-based organizations like the YMCAs of Tampa Bay, can provide a helping hand.

Here in Florida, the childhood obesity stands at 36.6 percent for 10- to 17-year-olds. Nationally, 31.2 percent of youth in this age range are overweight or obese. In fact, Florida is ranked the 4th highest in the entire country! If unchecked, obesity puts kids at risk for many chronic diseases seen in adults such as high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

As a leading voice in health and wellness, the Y offers programs like youth sports, swim lessons and family fitness classes. We can help you understand the dangers of childhood obesity and help improve eating and exercise habits as a family.

While outside support is key, developing healthy habits begins at home. Here are some ways to incorporate healthier habits into your daily family routine:

  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals and allow children to pour their own water. Keep full water bottles available in the car and back packs.
  • Play Every Day/Go Outside: Kids should play outside at least an hour a day and break a sweat at least three times a week with 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join them to get your hearts pumping.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, prep and clean up. Spend one-to-one time each day with your kids.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a TV, computer, tablet, cell or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Turn off screens during meals, charge electronics in the kitchen overnight, go for a walk after a meal and set a timer to remind you to power down the screen.
  • Sleep Well: Unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music. Kids need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

To learn how the Y can help improve your family’s health and potentially reduce the impact of childhood obesity, visit www.ymcatampabay.org/find-your-y/ and check out what healthy living programs are offered at the location most convenient to you!