Childhood obesity may be at the root of more problems than you think.
We all know about the long-term risks of childhood obesity, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. But a recent study by UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities points to obesity as the root of some surprising problems.
- The Outcomes: Compared to non-overweight kids, obese children ages 10 to 17 have a higher risk of physical ailments (bone, joint, and muscle problems; and asthma, allergies, and ear infections) and developmental delays, behavioral problems, grade repetition, depression, and ADHD.
- The Triggers: The study, published by the Academic Pediatric Association (APA) in 2013, pointed to stress as a potential key connection between weight and health issues. It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario, the APA says, because stress may contribute to the risk of obesity and related issues, while obesity and health issues may contribute to stress.
- The Solution: The study is a wake-up call to doctors, parents, teachers, and policy makers that childhood obesity needs to be addressed in a much more aggressive way. And that brings it back to something we all know: Exercise relieves stress and is good for the body and mind.
“We, as fitness professionals, can be leaders in turning this around,” says Latreal Mitchell, NASM-CPT, CES, YES, founder of the nonprofit Fitness Bunch Foundation (fitnessbunch.org) and a long-time childhood obesity activist. Mitchell says NASM’s Youth Exercise Specialist (YES) program can give trainers the tools they need to keep kids engaged. (Learn more at nasm.org/yes.)
“We have to help these kids—and their parents—get smarter about nutrition and exercise,” Mitchell says. “If we do that, we can make a huge difference.”