The Bigger Issue: Child Obesity
It still looms large, and no kid is trouble-proof.
Excess weight affects one-third of all kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it’s hardly the only health problem parents should monitor these days. Riley Hospital’s Change the Play program is addressing these growing concerns that hinder children of all shapes and sizes and make it harder for them to do their best at school:
Today’s teens are more tense than adults, says a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association—and anxiety may begin manifesting early in people’s lives. “I saw a lot of kindergartners and first-graders who were having a rough time six weeks into school this year,” says Karen Wheeler, M.D., a Change the Play consultant.
Electronics don’t just keep kids on the couch; they also keep students awake or wired past bedtime. Eight to 10 hours of sleep is ideal, and Wheeler says a couple of extra hours can significantly improve concentration at school.
The CDC says 60 percent of kids don’t get enough fruit, and a whopping 93 percent don’t eat the daily recommended amount of vegetables. Pediatricians expect to diagnose more adolescents with Type 2 diabetes, a worrisome reality because doctors don’t have experience helping people live with the disease for 50 or 60 years.
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Anecdotally, Riley doctors say schools have cut back on crucial playtime. Less than half of all children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day, according to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.
Pediatricians are now seeing kids develop the kind of joint issues their grandparents might have. Sedentary children need to worry about underdeveloped joints, while those who play just one sport year-round are susceptible to overuse injuries. Wheeler and fellow consultant Christine Caltoum, M.D., have seen a number of overzealous single-sport athletes—some as young as 8—and recommend that budding superstars mix it up.