GREENSBORO, N.C. — September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The month is dedicated to educating the public about the serious health condition and how to promote healthy growth in children.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, one in three children in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Dr. Soren Johnson is a pediatrician with Novant Health. He said childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems like sleep apnea, liver problems, diabetes, and more.
“Long term we know the longer you have problems with obesity, the longer you have diabetes the more and more likely you are to have cardiovascular disease, so problems with the heart down the road,” Dr. Johnson said.
Like many other conditions, COVID-19 has made childhood obesity worse. Dr. Johnson said more than a year of remote learning has given children more reason to be sedentary. He said there are several things parents can do to help keep their children active.
“Number one thing is probably cutting down on screen usage, and some of the times we have to look in the mirror,” Dr. Johnson said. “What example am I giving to my child? Am I staring at my phone all day? You know sometimes that's the place to start. Like maybe I should change my habits and that will help my kid be more active."
In addition to promoting physical fitness like sports, jump rope, and bike riding, Dr. Johnson said families should try to eliminate sweet beverages like sodas, flavored milk, and sports energy drinks.
“Basically, an extra 3,000 calories are going to equate to about a pound of fat in the body,” Dr. Johnson explained. “If you're drinking a soda a day, that's an extra 180 calories. You can do that math over two weeks you're gaining an extra 3,000 calories, so that’s a pound every two weeks of extra sugar your body didn't need. If you can cut that out it can make an impact on your overall health and your weight on the scale too."
For the toddlers, who may not be old enough for organized sports and activities, Dr. Johnson suggests taking them to the park or just getting outside where he said they're naturally going to move.