Childhood obesity treatable, preventable

Photo of feet on a bathroom scale

A wound, illness or injury can disrupt a family's routine and make healthy habits difficult to maintain, but there are still ways to stay active and healthy even during recovery.

A serious wound, illness or injury can change the life of a Service member almost instantly, and the lives of their family members change in the blink of an eye as well. Spouses, children and other family members often find their routines disrupted as they travel back and forth to Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs), spend hours at appointments and log lots of hours on airplanes and in hotel rooms in order to be close to their Service member.

In addition to emotional strain, these kinds of disruptions can also have physical consequences as family members have less time to exercise and prepare healthy meals. Some recovering Service members and family members experience weight gain, many experience sleep loss, and some turn to more destructive behaviors such as alcohol abuse. As part of Total Force Fitness Month, here are some tips for staying lean and fit, even when your world is turned upside down.

Military children are our youngest heroes and they play a vital role in the armed forces community but many of them, especially the children of recovering Service members, are at risk for health problems including childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled over the last 30 years, and studies show that overweight and obese youth are more likely to develop risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol and/or blood pressure. They are also at greater risk for bone and joint problems and sleep apnea. Early detection and intervention can go a long way toward managing and even eliminating these risk factors, and many of these steps can be taken even if a family is uprooted or disrupted as they care for a wounded, ill or injured family member.

Changes in diet and exercise are the most effective steps in managing and preventing childhood obesity. For example, limit fat and sugar and trade in high calorie snacks such as chips, cookies and candy bars for fruits and vegetables.

Physical activity is also an essential component. Turn off the TV, video games and computer and engage in family activities such as walks or bike rides or games such as catch, soccer or tossing around a Frisbee. School activities such as sports, recess or physical education can also help ensure that children are getting the recommended amount of daily activity.

Even if you spend most of your time at home, in a hotel room or at the hospital, children and parents can still get in a good workout. Use the floor, a chair and heavy water bottles to exercise. You can also take a short walk, do work while you are standing up instead of sitting down, and do lunges at your desk, by your family member’s hospital bed or in your living room. Just keep moving, and encourage your children to do the same.

Also be sure to check with your MTF or local installation to learn about physical fitness programs and outings nearby. In addition, here are some other resources that can help parents and children stay fit.

Let’s Move!

Let’s Move! is a campaign started by First Lady Michelle Obama to end childhood obesity. The website includes information about childhood obesity, healthy eating tips, suggestions for physical activity and ways to encourage community involvement.

We Can!

We Can!, which stands for Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition, is a national program that provides parents, caregivers and communities with information on how to help children ages eight to 13 stay at a healthy weight.

Childhood Obesity Facts

The Centers for Disease Control offers a variety of facts, statistics and tips for prevention of childhood obesity.