About one in five American children are overweight enough to be considered obese. Many cases of childhood obesity can be attributed to a lack of exercise. More than half of children in America are inactive and this inactivity raises sharply during adolescence.
There are a number of reasons why so many children are inactive, but the number one cause thought by many experts is the television. More than 60 percent of childhood obesity can be directly related to too much television viewing. The rate of obesity rises 2 percent for each hour of television watched per day. By cutting back the number of hours of television watching per week from 21 (the average American exposure) to 7, a child's risk of developing obesity can be cut by one third.
Many children see their parents as their exercise role models. In order for an exercise program to be successful for many children, their parents need to be actively participating in the program as well. According to a study published in 1996 by the International Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, at least one parent must participate in a child's weight loss process for any hope of success in the long run. Making physical activity a family activity is a good way to promote exercise in children. Family activities that promote physical activity may include walking the dog, doing household chores that involve exercise such as yard work or snow shoveling, and planning family activities such as a family hiking trip or a trip to the pool to go swimming.
When encouraging an overweight child to begin an exercise program, it may be important to remember to be considerate of their feelings. Many overweight children are shy and have low self-esteem as a result of today's society being very concerned with self-image. Some overweight children may be uncomfortable participating in team sports because they are uncomfortable with their athletic ability. When choosing an exercise program for a child, it may be important to decide on an activity they enjoy doing and feel comfortable participating in.
When choosing an exercise program for a child, it is very important to choose something that is age appropriate. Things like weight lifting may not be necessary for children. Also, certain high-intensity sports can be detrimental to bone and muscle development since the bones are still growing. Age appropriate exercise programs for children may include bike riding, walking, roller skating, skateboarding, jumping rope and participation in organized community or school sports teams.