Obesity and Your Environment: A “Weighty” Subject!

Courtesy: National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciencesscale

No one should ever be judged, bullied, or teased about their weight, height, or any other physical characteristic — or for any other reason for that matter! So please let an adult know if that is happening to you or to anyone you know.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know about the health problems that can be caused by being overweight. Right now, 15% of all children in the United States are overweight. At the rate those numbers are increasing, that will soon include one third of all children. If overweight children then become overweight adults, nearly 50 million Americans could have diabetes by 2050. Now that is a very scary thought!

And there are many other serious health risks that can also be caused by excess weight, such as amputations, blindness, kidney failure, and heart attacks from hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol levels. Plus, recent studies also tell us that new cases of asthma are 1½ to 2 times more likely among overweight children.

But are YOU overweight?

Typically, you are considered to be overweight if you weigh at least 10 percent more than your ideal body weight. Obesity is defined as being 30 pounds or more over your ideal body weight. But remember, many people think they are overweight when they are not! If 15% of children ARE overweight, then 85% are NOT, and that’s important to remember since not eating enough can also cause serious health problems. So don’t just assume that you weigh too much. If you think you may be overweight, talk to your parents and your doctor to find out what your ideal body weight really is and what you should do to get there.

What can YOU do if you need to lose weight or just want to stay “fit”?

Obesity can be caused by a combination of several things including your genes, environment, and behavior. But there are still steps you can take to reduce the problem…and your waistline! How?

By changing your environment!

The major “environmental” contributors are:

  1. Eating behavior — consuming too many excess calories and unhealthy foods;
  2. Little or no exercise — choosing television, computers, and the telephone instead of active play; and
  3. Our “built” environment — the fact that we now typically ride in cars instead of walking, take elevators instead of the stairs, etc.

So the solution is actually pretty simple. YOU can change your environment and reduce your weight simply by walking an extra mile every day and decreasing your calorie consumption by about five percent! So turn off the television, computer, or video games and have some physical fun instead. Here are some other great ideas to get in shape!

  • Eat lots of fruits and veggies! Tastes change as you grow older, so you might find you like healthy foods that you didn’t like the first time you tried them.
  • Eat fast foods less often. When you do visit a fast food restaurant, try some of the many new healthy choices on the menu.
  • Do NOT skip any meals and be sure to eat a good breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast and other meals can cause you to eat more later or to crave foods that are too high in fat and calories.
  • DO skip the soft drinks and high fat or high calorie snack foods like chips, cookies, and candy. Choose healthy drink and snack foodslink to a non-NIEHS site instead, such as:
    • Milk!link to a non-NIEHS site Milk matters! It is very important for strong bones and healthy teeth;
    • Water (especially when exercising!);
    • 100% fruit juice is good, but to be careful of juices that are not 100% natural juice;
    • Fresh fruit or fruit canned in juice or light syrup, such as mandarin oranges, peaches, or pineapples;
    • Small amounts of dried fruits such as raisins, apple rings, or apricots (but chew carefully – these could be choking hazards!);
    • Fresh vegetables such as baby carrots, cucumber, zucchini, or tomatoes cut and served with low-fat salad dressing for dipping;
    • Reduced fat cheese served with whole-wheat crackers; low-fat yogurt with fruit;
    • A bagel or whole wheat toast spread with a small amount of peanut butter;
    • Graham crackers, animal crackers, or low-fat vanilla wafers;
    • A tortilla spread with low-fat refried beans.

    You need a total of about 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but the good news is that this does NOT have to be done all at one time. Short five or ten minute spurts of fun physical activities throughout the day are just as good for you. Here are some things you might enjoy:

    • Power walking, jogging, or runningpowerwalking160ay7
    • Riding a bikelink to a non-NIEHS site
    • Skating
    • Hiking
    • Bouncing, throwing, and catching a ball
    • Shooting hoops
    • Climbing on a jungle-gym, hills, or stairs
    • Swinging on a swing set
    • Swimming or just playing in a pool (only with supervision of course!)
    • Jumping rope
    • Playing hopscotch, tag, kick-the-can, hide and go seek, etc.
    • Dancing or playing music games, like the Hokey Pokey, Bunny Hop, Ring Around the Rosies, Skip to My Loo, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, or The Walking Song
    • Team sports, like soccer, basketball, hockey, volleyball, and softball or baseball
    • Choosing the stairs instead of escalators or elevators
    • Taking physical education (PE) classes at school, or lessons such as swimming, tennis, or gymnastics
    • Walking to school, the store, friends’ houses, or other places in the neighborhood (if it is safe to do so and with your parents’ permission)

The NIEHS Fitness Fighters!

NIEHS also plans to help you in this effort. We will be developing a children’s television program similar to “Sesame Street” that we call “The Fitness Fighters.” It will give you lots of ideas for staying fit and healthy. So stay tuned as this important project comes to a television near you. But remember – for the most part you should turn off that television and get moving instead!

P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program – 13 DVDs, Nutrition Guide, Exercise Planner
P90X Resistance Bands Workout Kit–3 bands: Light, Medium, Heavy
Insanity: The Ultimate Cardio Workout and Fitness DVD Program


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