Obesity is defined by using age and sex specific body mass index (BMI) information. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines overweight as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile as compared to children of the same sex and age. Obesity is defined as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile.
For school aged children the average weight gain is 7 pounds per year and average height gain is 2.5 inches per year. When weight increases more rapidly than expected the first step is to look at healthy lifestyle choices including food intake and calorie expenditure. Frequent concerns include sweet flavored drinks, snacks and fast food with a lack of healthy fruits and vegetables. Other concerns can include the intake of whole milk instead of skin milk and general portion sizes.
As a parent you must focus on good health not weight management. A healthy lifestyle will lead to the right weight for your child. Along the way your child will also develop improved self-esteem and a healthy body image. For good health to be sustainable it must be linked to a positive self-image built around the importance of a healthy dietary intake and an active lifestyle rather than labeling a child as being obese or overweight.
By understanding the importance of lifestyle changes your child will develop the consistency and confidence needed to respond to future lifestyle decisions. By involving your child in all the decisions, including cooking and shopping, your child will become competent to manage their own dietary choices.
Physical activity can help this process. Exercise has clear benefits to the heart, lungs and musculoskeletal systems. The addition of 60 minutes of aerobic activity to your child’s daily schedule will also have longstanding social benefits. Aerobic social activities, such as family walks, provide talk and listening time for the entire family.
These family activities allow other family members to share in physical benefits.
Another benefit to physical activity is the association between physical activity and enhanced cognitive and academic performance. At least half of all studies have shown clear benefits including improved concentration, memory reaction time, attention, perceptual skills and verbal skills.