Thursday, March 18, 2010

Factors in Childhood Obesity

I sometimes hear fitness buffs explain that losing weight is simple: eat less, exercise more. This might work nicely as a mantra to chant in your head while running up hills, but the reality is that obesity is a pretty complex phenomenon, particularly when it comes to children. As reported in this recent article from the LA times, race, family structure, household income, and several other factors are all linked to childhood obesity rates according to a newly-published study using data from the National Survey of Childhood Health.

I was especially interested in relationship between childhood obesity and outside activities, which is striking. Children who do not participate in activities outside of school are 40 percent more likely to be obese than children who do, and children who live in neighborhoods without a park or recreaction center are about 20 percen more likely to be overweight.

It seems to me that one of the barriers to getting children to do more outside of school (aside from cost, of course) is that it's hard to get them to those outside activities. What if a kids could walk themselves to soccer practice after school, instead of relying on a parent to drive them? Or walk to a park to play? I believe that an important part of addressing childhood obesity should be restructuring the built environment to make active transportation easy for everyone--especially kids.

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