Obesity is on the rise!
Over the last 40 years, obesity in children and adolescents has increased significantly. From 1978-1979, 1 in 4 children were overweight or obese, currently, it’s closer to 1 in 3!
One study of over 3000 Canadian youth found that those adolescents with lower fitness levels had increased estimates of cardiovascular disease risk factors (we’re talking triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure). We know that physical activity is great for keeping the pounds off, but it’s also important for metabolizing sugar properly, keeping our blood pressure in check, and preventing diabetes.
But here’s the shocker: only 16% of Canadians are meeting physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week. That means 84% of adults are letting only 21 minutes of activity per day increase their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why does it matter?
Obesity is directly related to metabolic conditions- type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep disorders, mental health disorders, and even joint problems. If we’re not enforcing some form of movement in children while they’re young, they’re less likely to be active as adults. The same goes for healthy eating. Instilling healthy exercise & eating habits from a young age is crucial in creating healthy adolescents- who will go on to be healthy adults.
So, what should we do?
We need to encourage physical activity in a way kids enjoy. Letting kids pick which sports they’re involved in allows them to feel like they have control, making them more likely to continue the sport as they age. Limiting screen time is also important, as increased screen time has led to declines in physical activity.
By 3 months of age, babies should have a total of 60 minutes of tummy time per day- broken up into smaller chunks. Infants younger than 18 months should not be exposed to screens unless video calling with a family member.
Children aged 3-5 should be active throughout the day to encourage proper growth & development. Screen time should be limited to 1 hour per day (or less) and should be educational programs or video calls with family members.
Children aged 6-17 should be active for a minimum of 60 minutes every day. This should include a mixture of aerobic exercises (like playing soccer, swimming, or running), climbing or pushing objects, and jumping. This combination of exercises ensures healthy hearts and proper bone development- preventing cardiovascular disease & osteoporosis as they become adults. Screen time will differ depending on your child & their needs, but a firm no-screens in the bedroom rule works for many families and encourages proper sleep function.
For all ages-childhood to adulthood; incorporating enough vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats is a key factor in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.
Why work with both your pediatrician and your ND (Naturopathic Doctor)
Your pediatrician plays a vital role in your child’s health. However, NDs, who have experience & training in pediatrics, have a strong focus & background in prevention of disease. Not only are NDs focused on treating illness and preventing deficiencies, but they are also trained in optimal health & nutrition. Optimal health is often neglected in the Canadian public healthcare system because the focus is on preventing deficiency- not obtaining optimal health. Medical doctors often don't have enough allocated time to discuss your child's diet in depth during the visit, but NDs have the time to take a thorough history & discuss specific nutrition goals that might benefit your child. Naturopathic Doctors can also diagnose common childhood conditions and treat them using gentler options. Some common conditions NDs can help your child with include eczema, constipation, respiratory infections, sleep issues, ADHD & autism. Overall, ND's offer a more individualized approach to the prevention of chronic disease & promotion of optimal health from infancy to adulthood.
Adrienne DeLuca, BHK
References (in case you still believe naturopathic medicine isn’t evidence-based):