Obesity a growing problem in younger kids

1 in 5 Kentucky children are overweight before reaching first grade

The World Health Organization is out with a new study on the obesity crisis, and the findings are troubling. Worldwide, at least 41 million children age 5 and younger are obese or overweight, up nearly 25 percent from three decades ago.

According to Healthy Louisville, nearly 20 percent of local kindergartners are overweight. The numbers jump even higher as children get older.

“Childhood obesity continues to be an epidemic in our community,” said Erin Frazier, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of the Children’s Hospital Foundation Prevention & Wellness. “Being overweight at such a young age not only impacts a child’s development but also can cause extreme health problems as they reach adulthood.”

As a parent, what can you do to help your child reach or maintain a healthy weight? Jenita Lyons, health and wellness manager at the Office of Prevention & Wellness, said it’s important to make sure kids are eating well and getting the right amount of physical activity.

“Exercise and proper nutrition improve physical, mental and emotional well-being, and can help kids do better in school and sleep better,” Lyons said. “It can also lower the risk of chronic diseases down the road.”

To keep your kids (and yourself) at a healthy weight, Lyons recommends following the 5-2-1-0 rule:

  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Get two hours or less of screen time per day, including TV, videogames and tablets.
  • Perform at least one hour of physical activity each day.
  • Drink zero sugar-sweetened beverages.

As we’re still in the winter months, Lyons recommends parents check out GoNoodle, an online education and fitness tool that teaches kids how to be active indoors. The basic GoNoodle option is available to any user of the site, which is the option Lyons uses for her kids.

“We do guided dance videos, and they also have mindfulness and calming stretch breaks,” she said.

Find other ways to keep your kids healthy.