National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month kicks off in September and now’s the time to step up childhood obesity prevention. But why do we need an entire month dedicated to this issue? Sadly, America’s childhood obesity epidemic is growing at an astonishing rate, with more than 31% of today’s adolescents considered obese or overweight. Although Colorado is considered the healthiest state in the nation for adults, the same cannot be said for its younger residents. According to a 2011 study conducted by The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, 10.9% of individuals between the ages of 10 and 17 in Colorado are considered obese. Even more astonishingly, the study found the childhood obesity rate in Arizona to be higher, with 19.8% of children in the same age group reportedly obese.
The long-term effects of childhood obesity carry over into adulthood and can severely impact the quality of life for those affected. In fact, children and adolescents who are obese are at a greater risk of being overweight or obese as they enter adulthood. This increases the risk of developing health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, and osteoarthritis later in life. Most frighteningly, many of the health effects of childhood obesity can be felt immediately, with 70% of obese youth possessing one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
At Healthy LifeStars, we are committed to combatting childhood obesity through our proven program, The LifeStar Challenge. Every year, thousands of children throughout Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada benefit from The LifeStar Challenge; we hope to reach even more kids this year. Our program is only one element of our effort to eliminate childhood obesity. Raising awareness and providing education about childhood obesity are also vital to our mission.
With September marking National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, now’s the time for everyone—including you—to STEP UP and play an important role in childhood obesity prevention and awareness. Check out these 4 ways to take action.
1. Educate and motivate others to STEP UP against childhood obesity
By becoming more aware of the staggering statistics surrounding childhood obesity, you can be part of the solution. Follow us online on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to receive the latest studies and statistics about childhood obesity. Then, take action by supporting our STEP UP 4 KiDS Walkathon. Sign up to log your steps for an entire week—October 16-23—and encourage others to join with you. As you raise funds to support our proven program, The LifeStar Challenge, you’ll also be helping make others aware of the alarming childhood obesity epidemic that demands our attention and our action.
2. Support childhood obesity prevention efforts
When it comes to combatting childhood obesity, prevention is key. Promoting healthy eating habits, increasing physical activity, and establishing a positive body image are all simple steps that parents, teachers, and coaches can take to prevent this epidemic from growing even more out of hand. Research shows that children who are obese face a multitude of physical issues as well as psychological problems, including poor self-esteem and stigmatization.
While parents assume the primary responsibility for instilling the importance of healthy choices and an active lifestyle in their kids, schools and afterschool programs also play an integral role in the battle against childhood obesity. By building a supportive environment that focuses on improving and promoting overall health, school and afterschool programs, like The LifeStar Challenge, provide kids with opportunities to not only learn about, but also practice healthy habits that incorporate fun and fitness.
What can you do in your community to support or introduce programs like The LifeStar Challenge that work to fight childhood obesity?
3. Lead by example
We’ve all been there—gobbling down at-our-finger-tips processed foods rather than whole, “clean” healthy choices. With busy work schedules, good intentions quickly go out the window. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor, you can set a good example for our youngest generation by making healthy choices every day. Rather than indulge in a fifth cup of coffee or afternoon soda, choose water. Healthy eating choices are not just limited to what you eat—you also need to keep in mind how and when you eat. This article offers 9 tips on breaking bad eating habits.
And let’s not forget about fitting regular exercise into your routine. Starting your day with a walk, run, or workout can be a great way to lead by example before your kid, or the kid next door who is taking notes, rolls out of bed. You’ll be cooling down and heading off to shower as they wake up and realize you have just gotten a jump start—literally—on a healthy, active day.
Do you always have wine on Wednesdays or go out to a movie on the weekend? What about ordering pizza on Fridays? While those traditions are fun, creating healthy habits can be much more rewarding for you and our youngest generation. Why not make participating in our STEP UP 4 KiDS Walkathon part of your healthy habits? Kids 17 and under participate for free and adult participation only costs $25, for what’s sure to be one of the most active weeks of your life.
Whether eating, working out, or creating fun traditions, you set an example for kids, so take your role seriously.
4. Give your time, talent, or treasure to fighting childhood obesity
Everyone has a gift to contribute to the battle against childhood obesity. Whether you are a talented chef with healthy recipes to share, a passionate fitness professional ready to motivate our youngest generation to move, or a volunteer looking to get involved with an organization that makes a difference, you can STEP UP against childhood obesity in meaningful ways.
Healthy LifeStars is always looking for support—through donations, your time, or your talent. So whether you want to participate in our STEP UP 4 KiDS Walkathon, donate an item for us to auction off at our annual celebration fundraiser event on November 9th, bring The LifeStar Challenge to a community near you, serve on a committee or advisory board, or make a monetary donation, your contribution will help fight childhood obesity. Contact us today to help ensure our kids grow up healthy and active!