December 12, 2008

Not sure what to give your children for the holidays? How about the gift of health?

By Tracy Hoos
Graduate Student in Health Promotion, SDSU

Rates of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents are critical health issues in the United States today. Data from a national study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 17 percent of children and adolescents age 2-19 are overweight or obese. This represents a nearly 300 percent increase in the rates of overweight and obesity among children since 1980. Mexican-American children are especially at risk, and the problem does not seem to be going away. From 1994 to 2004 rates of overweight for Mexican-American girls (12-19) increased from 9.2 to 14.1 percent and from 14.1 to 18.3 percent in Mexican-American boys (12-19).

Children who are overweight or obese are at risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight or obese increases children’s chances of being teased by their peers, which can affect their self-esteem. Being overweight as a child can also have an impact on a child’s future health. Studies have shown that children who are overweight are more likely to become obese as adults, putting them at risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even some cancers.

While the numbers may seem overwhelming, there are several simple steps you can take as a parent to protect your child:

· The most important step is to be a healthy role model. Children imitate adults; make healthy eating and exercise part of your daily routine and encourage your children to do the same.

· Limit your children’s screen time. The Surgeon General recommends that children spend less than 2 hours a day in front of the television.

· Make sure your children are getting an hour (60 minutes) of physical activity each day. This can be tricky during the holidays, when children are on break from school and organized sports. However, holiday activities like decorating the Christmas tree or walking through the neighborhood participating in las Posadas are ways your children can reach the recommended amount of daily physical activity. For more ideas on how to keep your children active during the winter, visit The Alliance for a Healthier Generation website:

· Cut back on the soda, and increase consumption of fruits and veggies. Recommendations for servings vary by age. To find out how many servings of fruits and vegetables your children should be eating, go to: For healthy recipes you and your children can make together, check out the recipe database at:

· Make it fun! Children will be more likely to stick with activities they enjoy. This Christmas, give them toys that encourage physical activity:

o For little ones, try Playskool’s Sit and Spin, Kid Motion Romper Stomper’s Beast Feet, and Honeybee Hop, all appropriate for children ages 1-5. These toys help children develop physical skills and a healthy love of the active lifestyle.

o Want to include everyone? Play games like Twister and Charades, fun ways to spend time together while being active.

o Classics like jump ropes, hoola hoops, soccer and basketballs, or any other types of sporting equipment, are always crowd pleasers.

o Have a video game lover in the family? Interactive video games like Dance Dance Revolution and the new Wii Fit are a great way for older kids to get their recommended physical activity without even having to leave the house.

To find out more ways you and your children can get active and healthy, visit the San Diego Prevention Research Center (SDPRC) website for fun community events that might be in your area (

This message is brought to you by the SDPRC Familias Sanas y Activas program.  For more information on our free physical activity programs in South Bay, please contact Sara Solaimani at 619-594-2965.

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