Combating Obesity with Fitness and Activities

Reviewed by Sharon Denny, MS, RDN
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Sometimes it seems like the fight against childhood obesity is only waged in the kitchen. But, it happens in living rooms and playgrounds, too. Sports participation and general physical activity are two positive patterns that impact obesity. Often, children spend too much time parked in front of the television, computer and smartphone screens and neglect the fitness that they need. Look at these patterns to keep focus on the activities that will create healthy fitness habits for the future.

The 3 Activity Patterns

  1. Sports participation helps to reduce the risk of obesity in children. Most studies find that children who participate in sports have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who are not active in sports. Encourage your child to find a sport or activity he or she enjoys — basketball, softball, soccer, martial arts, swimming or running — it doesn't matter as long as it gets them moving.
  2. General physical activity is also a boon to maintaining a healthy body weight. It helps children burn calories and results in lower levels of body fat. Many children spend too much leisure time on activities involving screens (computers, video games, television and movie viewing) instead of vigorous play. Teach your children the games of your youth, such as tag, touch football, wiffle ball or badminton. Plan family activities like biking or hiking to get everyone moving. Keep in mind: the effect of sports participation and general physical activity on obesity may be different in boys and girls, different age groups and whether the child has a healthy body weight or is overweight.
  3. Limit screen time. Watching TV is a passive activity that encourages sedentary behavior and is tied to weight gain. The amount of television watched and what the child does while watching, such as snacking, also plays a role. Video gaming and spending time at the computer are also tied to obesity, because, like television, these are passive activities. Research on video gaming was conducted before the invention of active video games — such as Nintendo's Wii Fit or Wii Sports — so these games may be better choices than passive video games.

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