By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Finally, some good news on the childhood obesity front: obesity rates may actually be falling in a number of major metropolitan areas. The exact reasons for the falling rates are unknown but it appears this is not just manipulation of statistics to try to prove a point: the changes appear to be real. The various studies and possible explanations are summarized nicely in a New York Times article from a few weeks ago. The drops are small (5% in Philadelphia and 3% in Los Angeles) but after years of rising obesity rates in children these findings offer the first signs of hope that we may be able to reverse the problem.
There are hundreds of diets, exercise programs, medical and surgical treatments, food supplements, etc. all reported to be a critical factor in a person’s ability to lose weight and body fat. The fat industry is a multi-billion dollar business. It’s widely known that one of the least expensive, and potentially most effective methods of combating childhood obesity is to prevent it in the first place. But this is also extremely difficult for many people because it involves overcoming years of poor diet and exercise behavior.
For all of us involved in the world of youth sports we need to instill in these kids a lifetime of healthy habits.
It’s really easy to come up with multiple excuses for lack of exercise and improper eating habits, so we’ll leave that to someone else. What I’d like to have us focus on is positivity and simple steps to imprint the habits that will hopefully lead to a lower risk for obesity as these young people enter adulthood.
- Don’t Eat Out Of A Box Or Bag (Eliminate processed or “white” carbs)
Encourage the least processed food you can possibly find. I don’t think there’s a need to get too caught up in reading percentages of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in a food label but a simpler way of dealing with this is to eat and drink the most natural foods you can. But there are two things you need to actively avoid: processed sugars and trans fats. See more specifics in our blog on What To Eat.
2. Drink Water As Often As Possible
Water has been the preferred drink of human beings for billions of years. No need to change that now, it still works for young athletes.
3. For All Kids- Athletes Or Not- 60 Minutes Of Physical Activity Every Day
Anyone who’s watched an NFL game has seen their public service announcements for their “Play 60” initiative. Kids need 60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity every day. This can be unstructured play, activity at school, competitive sports teams, etc.
4. For Coaches- Make Your Practices Active!
Some sports practices involve remarkably little movement and activity. I wrote about this in a prior blog post. Re-evaluate your practice plans and look at places you might be able to put more activity in the session. Could you consider a portion of each practice devoted to conditioning? How about a portion of each week? This can be tough, and will need careful planning ahead of the practice but it can be done.
5. For Parents- Be A Positive Role Model And Keep Yourself Fit
There’s not much surprise here. Parents, other influential adults, and even siblings can have a profound effect on just about every aspect of a young person’s life. Do them a favor and help yourself at the same time, lead by example.