Early tips to ward off childhood obesity

Childhood obesity continues to be a growing worldwide problem. It results in the early onset of many chronic conditions not typically seen in children like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated lipids and heart disease. It may also lead to significant depression and poor self-image.

Recent calls for obese children to be removed from their homes emphasize the parental responsibility of overseeing that children are physically fit. A program should begin at infancy and proceed through scholastic sports.

Infant programs typically involve both parents and children. Swim classes introduce infants to aquatic activities while making them safer around bodies of water. Parent-child groups that include a combination of walking and stretching have become popular from both fitness and social perspectives.

Youth sports are often a child's first introduction to team sports and the advantages and disadvantages that go along with these activities. In the past, youth sports were a playground and sandlot activity. Now they are subject to parental coaches, uniforms and draft systems to choose the most talented players.

Team competitive sports may not be the best choice for some children. Individual activities such as swimming, running, martial arts and cycling can be a better alternative. Multiple activities help develop a broader interest and utilize different muscle groups. Specializing in one sport at an early age may lead to disappointment. Many successful athletes played multiple sports and some were drafted professionally in more than one sport.

As academic and social pressures increase in high school and college, sports become an outlet for expression and relaxation. Unfortunately, it is at this stage when a sense of perspective should be reinforced. Injuries must be monitored and treated properly, but are often the end of promising careers.

Choosing and supporting a child's participation in sports is important for proper physical and mental development.

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