A Weighty Issue for Children

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Everyone knows somebody who has tried either Atkins or South Beach. People are always looking for the latest fad-diet to help them lose weight. However, no diet can disguise the fact Americans are typically not as healthy as they should when it comes to both eating and activity level. It seems the lure of McDonald's and Burger King on every corner is simply too strong, especially for kids and their time-starved parents. You can see this in children's weight problems, which have expanded with their waistlines over the last thirty years.

"Overweight is related to what you eat and how much energy you expend, your physical activities. We know that the genetics haven't changed much over the last 20 to 25 years, but that's when the increase occurred in kids. It's parallel to what we see in adults," explains Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the CDC. "We know we're fairly inactive as a population."

Ogden went on to clarify that 30 percent of children get insufficient physical activity and 40 percent of high school kids watch at least 3 hours of television per day. On top of this, only one state, Illinois, requires daily physical education.

That inactivity has led to a large increase in the number of children between 6 and 18 who are overweight. Thirty years ago, only about 6 percent of children were overweight, today more than 16 percent weigh more than they should. This comes from a new report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics titled America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2004. The report highlights many factors contributing to children's well-being, including weight problems, which can cause many problems.

"There are immediate consequences that are psycho-social and cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as precursors to diabetes. We also know that overweight adolescents often become overweight adults," Ogden suggests.

The popular restaurant Subway, now best known for its spokesman Jared Fogle who lost 245 pounds eating its sandwiches, is trying to educate people about weight problems in children. Subway conducted original research to go along with its F.R.E.S.H. Steps campaign, finding that being overweight ranked rather low on the list of behaviors that children deemed dangerous. While 97 percent said smoking and 95 percent said wearing a seatbelt, only 55 percent said being overweight. In fact, overweight was even believed to be less dangerous than not brushing your teeth. Subway saw a problem and decided to try and address it.

"With health problems relating to obesity, this could be the first generation of children that don't live longer lives than their parents. It's tough for kids to deal with the stigma related with being overweight," explains Subway Public Relations Manager Kevin Kane. "We think everyone should try and do something about it and this is what we're doing. What we're asking is for people to sign the pledge and do one thing to start eating healthier and do something to get more active. These are small steps, but if you take small steps you can look to make some successes."

In the future, hopefully more companies will follow Subway's lead and take a proactive role in America's health. As it stands now, all Americans and especially children, need to live more active and healthy lifestyles. Just imagine if those 40 percent of high school-age children watched one hour less of television a day and were instead active during that time. Hopefully, the future weight of America will rest more on their shoulders and less on their hips.

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