Learn The Facts for Getting Healthy
Over the past 3-decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If we don't solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.
How Did We Get Here?
30-years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.
Today, children experience a very different lifestyle. Walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut; afternoons are now spent with TV, video games, and the internet. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals. Snacking between meals is now commonplace.
30-years ago, kids ate just one snack a day, whereas now they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day. And one in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day.
Portion sizes have also exploded- they are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past. Beverage portions have grown as well- in the mid-1970s, the average sugar-sweetened beverage was 13.6 ounces compared totoday, kids think nothing of drinking 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time.
In total, we are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were 40-years ago–including 56% more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats fifteen more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.
Eight to 18-year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including, TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies, and only one-third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity.
Now that’s the bad news. The good news is that by making just a few lifestyle changes, we can help our children lead healthier lives and we already have the tools we need to do it. We just need the will.
Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let's Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices. Providing healthier foods in our schools. Ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food. And, helping kids become more physically active.
Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity, including parents, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies. Your involvement is key to ensuring a healthy future for our children.
Get Active with Physical Activity
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. In combination with healthy eating, it can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke, which are the three leading causes of death. Physical activity helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity. Children need 60-minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight.
If this sounds like a lot, consider that eight to 18-year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media including TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies in a typical day, and only one-third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity. To increase physical activity, today’s children need safe routes to walk and bike ride to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers where they can play after school, and activities like sports, dance or fitness programs that are exciting and challenging enough to keep them engaged.
Let’s Move! aims to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and to create new opportunities for families to move together.
- Active Families: Engage in physical activity each day: a total of 60 minutes for children, 30 minutes for adults.
- Active Schools: A variety of opportunities are available for schools to add more physical activity into the school day, including additional physical education classes, before–and afterschool programs, recess, and opening school facilities for student and family recreation in the late afternoon and evening.
- Active Communities: Mayors and community leaders can promote physical fitness by working to increase safe routes for kids to walk and ride to school; by revitalizing parks, playgrounds, and community centers; and by providing fun and affordable sports and fitness programs.
Parents and caregivers play a key role in not only making healthy choices for children and teaching children to make healthy choices for themselves. But in today’s busy world, this isn’t always easy. So Let’s Move! offers parents and caregivers the tools, support and information they need to make healthier choices while instilling healthy eating habits in children that will last a lifetime.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, put forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provide science-based advice for individuals over the age of two to promote health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases. The current Dietary Guidelines, encourage most Americans to eat fewer calories, be more physically active, and make wiser food choices.
USDA's new food icon, MyPlate, serves as a quick visual reminder to all consumers to make healthy food choices when you choose your next meal, built off of the Dietary Guidelines for all Americans. MyPlate can help prioritize food choices by reminding us to make half of our plate fruits and vegetables and shows us the other important food groups for a well-balanced meal: whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently deliberating on how to enhance the usefulness to consumers of point-of-purchase nutrition information. This includes information on the main display panel of food products, called "front-of-pack" labeling. The new labeling provides 65 million parents in America with easy access to the information they need to make healthy choices for their children.
Pediatricians as Partners
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the broader medical community, is educating doctors and nurses across the country about obesity to ensure that they regularly monitor children’s BMIs, provide counseling for healthy eating early on, and, for the first-time ever, write a prescription for parents laying out the simple things they can do to increase healthy eating and active play.