Movements to end childhood obesity ranging from government initiatives to tailoring fitness centers for children have appeared in headlines, but the all-too-common side effects get overlooked.
Described as an epidemic, childhood obesity is the result of a shift in culture as children spend less time doing physical activity and more time eating processed or unhealthy food. Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, which celebrated its second anniversary last week, combats these all-too common activities. Obama encourages the physical activity that children need and works to improve the food children eat at school as well as develop more visible labeling on foods so healthy choices are more obvious.
As Obama visits talk shows such as "Ellen," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" promoting the campaign, fitness facilities are targeting youth as they tailor entire facilities and equipment to the younger generation. Facilities such as Action Kids Fitness and Fun Fit offer these child-oriented gyms and are helping incorporate fitness into families' schedules.
Resources such as Pro Fit Enterprises president Rande LaDue's hydraulic circuit-training machines for kids may be the next big trend in the fitness industry. According to the Orange County Register, Ladue's machines were modeled after circuit training clubs like Curves but tailored specifically for children.
However, this encouragement for youth to exercise more may not always be packaged with the correct supervision, and this lack of instruction has resulted in excessive overuse injuries in youth. According to Paul Stricker, a pediatric sports medicine specialist, millions of children encounter overuse injuries by turning to exercise and doing too much, too fast after a lifetime of inactivity.
Stricker told Family Practice News that when these children are told to begin to exercise, they take on too much, and in a few weeks, they are visiting a sports medicine clinic. He said these injuries also can leave the children with a sense of defeat.
Stricker encourages a more gradual and cautious approach to exercise for previously inactive overweight youth. Unlike active children who are experienced in sports, these kids need to focus on stretching, strengthening and conditioning in order to allow the body time to adapt to new demands.
Good exercises for these children might include non-impact exercises, such as swimming, water aerobics and bicycling. Stricker said that supervised strength training is a particularly good way for these kids to get "on board the life-long exercise train."
"They can see real progress very quickly," he told Family Practice News. "It really gets them motivated, and the increased muscle mass is helpful because it brings an increased metabolic rate, which promotes weight loss."