FIGHT­ING child­hood obe­sity

The obe­sity epi­demic is a grow­ing prob­lem in New Zealand es­pe­cially amongst chil­dren and teenagers. LY­DIA SHOE­BRIDGE is shocked by the sta­tis­tics.

New Zealand Fitness - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Ly­dia Shoe­bridge

One in three adults (age 15 and over) are obese and one in nine chil­dren are obese, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted by New Zealand Health [2012 / 2013].

Di­eti­tian for the Blues su­per rugby team Dave Shaw says this is­sue is hard to solve and he is con­cerned that [obe­sity] sta­tis­tics aren’t de­creas­ing.

“Ob­vi­ously it’s not ideal and causes huge strains on the health sys­tem. The big­gest chal­lenge from a di­eti­tian’s per­spec­tive is try­ing to re­duce obe­sity and cre­ate aware­ness about what foods to eat.”

Obe­sity ex­poses chil­dren to a mul­ti­tude of health risks both psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal, along with greater chances of obe­sity car­ry­ing on into adult­hood.

Risks in­clude asthma, liver dis­ease, prob­lems with bones and mus­cles, and type-two di­a­betes. This type of di­a­betes was vir­tu­ally un­known in chil­dren be­fore the obe­sity epi­demic; those who de­velop this type are gen­er­ally over the age of 40.

“Par­ents do ev­ery­thing for their chil­dren, mak­ing their break­fast and lunch and chil­dren still don’t know how to main­tain a healthy diet. The me­dia and ad­ver­tis­ing heav­ily per­suades chil­dren, es­pe­cially with fast food and they take these mis­con­cep­tions into adult life,” says Dave.

Teenage years are cru­cial when it comes to both phys­i­cal and men­tal de­vel­op­ment so stay­ing fit dur­ing these years is ben­e­fi­cial. Fit­ness and health habits de­vel­oped as a teenager are likely to last a life­time and ex­er­cise is im­por­tant to the over­all health of teens. Ar­eas to ad­dress:

Eating right – they say be­ing fit and healthy is a 20:80 sce­nario, 20 per/ cent ex­er­cise, while the rest is down to a healthy diet. Junk food is, ob­vi­ously, poor fuel for the body and teenagers should try and cut­back on sug­ary drinks and pro­cessed food. Junk food is higher in sugar, sat­u­rated fat and salt so try and cook at home as of­ten as pos­si­ble. En­cour­age them to eat a healthy break­fast ev­ery morn­ing to avoid snack­ing dur­ing the day and keep your fruit bowl fully stocked. Don’t think it needs to be all or noth­ing. Eating well doesn’t mean you need to turn into a “health freak” and a good diet should in­cor­po­rate a treat now and then.

Sleep­ing well – get­ting enough sleep is of­ten over­looked, but is an im­por­tant health fac­tor for teenagers. Poor sleep de­prives the body of en­ergy, which is needed when work­ing out. Teenagers need be­tween eight and nine hours of sleep a night and de­spite how dif­fi­cult it is, en­cour­age them to turn off the TV and com­puter right be­fore bed as it stim­u­lates the brain mak­ing it harder to fall asleep.

Fit­ness tips – par­ents should ul­ti­mately try and give teens con­trol over how they de­cide to be phys­i­cally ac­tive. Ex­er­cise doesn’t need to be a gru­elling process, which no­body looks for­ward to. Play­ing a team sport is a way to make it fun and teenagers will prob­a­bly be meet­ing the rec­om­mended 60 min­uets of vig­or­ous ac­tiv­ity. Team sports can in­clude soc­cer, net­ball, bas­ket­ball, hockey and cy­cling. If this isn’t the go, there are plenty of other op­tions that can be done alone like swim­ming, run­ning, walk­ing and even danc­ing burns calo­ries! Talk to some­one who un­der­stands the im­por­tance of ex­er­cise, like a coach or gym trainer and try and find what is right for your teen.

Im­proved mood – ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly pro­duces changes in chem­i­cal lev­els in the body, which can even re­duce symp­toms of mild de­pres­sion. A low level of en­dor­phins, hor­mones in the brain as­so­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness, is part of de­pres­sion and dur­ing ex­er­cise en­dor­phins are re­leased there­fore im­prov­ing your mood. Ex­er­cis­ing also boosts sero­tonin in your brain, which plays an im­por­tant role in keep­ing calm.

For healthy snacks, fresh fruit is a more pru­dent choice, than pack­ets of pro­cessed snacks with high sugar and / or salt con­tent.

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