It's extremely important for kids of this age to continue (or to start) to lead a healthy lifestyle, including eating nutritious meals as well as getting plenty of exercise and adequate sleep every day. These positive health habits will help children grow strong, stay healthy, and decrease the likelihood that they will become obese.
Childhood obesity rates have increasing dramatically in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2004, 18.8% of school-aged children were obese (!), versus 4% of children 30 years before in 1974. Children's skyrocketing rate of obesity is worrisome because it greatly increases children's risk for remaining obese in adulthood, which in turn raises their risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and premature death as adults. Obese children may also develop associated health problems during the middle childhood stage, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and respiratory problems. Obesity can also set the stage for problems with self esteem, depression, anxiety and social ostracism, and/or being victimized by bullies.
Healthy diet and adequate exercise are important in preventing Type II diabetes in childhood as well as obesity. Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body cannot properly metabolize (break down) the sugars from food. Because the body cannot metabolize sugars, the sugars accumulate in the bloodstream instead and ultimately stress children's kidneys, heart, circulatory system, and eyes. Insulin, which is created in the pancreas, is the chemical that breaks down breaks down blood sugar. In Type II diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin to deal with all the sugars coming into the body. This medical diagnosis used to be called "adult-onset diabetes" because the disorder primarily affected adults with poor eating and activity habits. Today, however, however, this illness is now diagnosed in America's children far more than in adults. It is now referred to as "Type II diabetes", to reflect this shift in prevalence.
In contrast to the many youth in America who overeat and don't get enough exercise, other children become obsessed with over-controlling their food intake and with exercising too much. With the constant barrage of perfect, photoshopped bodies in the media today, many children are feeling pressure at younger and younger ages to imitate those images. Children as young as 6 are reporting that they are trying to lose weight by dieting. Overemphasis on extreme thinness can put children at risk for poor self-esteem, unhealthy exercise patterns, and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Children who embrace healthy eating and exercise habits during middle childhood will have a much easier time maintaining a healthy lifestyle through adolescence and adulthood than individuals who try to make the shift later in life. Teaching children to habitually eat moderate portion sizes and to choose healthy foods in preference to junk foods becomes increasingly important as children begin to spend more time away from home and gain more independence over their food and activity choices. Even though parents have less control over their children's eating habits during middle childhood than when children were younger, it remains vital that parents continue to reinforce children's healthy habits whenever possible. For more information about how to help children build healthy eating and exercise into their lives, please see our article on Middle Childhood Parenting.
According to the World Health Organization, only one in ten people exercise regularly and a majority do not follow a healthy diet. The main culprit is our penchant for junk food as can be seen from the popularity of fast food chains and other western eateries. even local foods such as fried noodles, friend rice and snacks and savories are laden with fat and calories. Thus, consuming this type of food on a daily basis can contribute to weight gain. Overweight and obese people suffer from many health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer.
Hence, the emphasis on healthy lifestyle should start at a young age. Parents must urge their children to eat more vegetables, fruits, juices, wholemeal and wholegrain foods. Many parents, due to time constraint, usually find the easy way out by cooking two-minute noodles or heading towards the nearest fast food joint for quick meal. They do not realize however that sets the stage for an unhealthy lfestyle for their children who quickly become addicted to such foods. Thus, parents can counter this problem by cooking or preparing meals that do not take up time such as cheese sandwiches, soup, stir friend vegetables or buy pre-packed meals from supermarkets which can be warmed up in the microwave oven.
Dining out usually involves eating heavily and unhealthily. Most of us are prone to ordering deep fried food and oily dishes as opposed to steamed or baked food. Thus, though eating out is unavoidable, parents of children and adults as a hole should order fresh food and foods that are nutritious and not laden with oil, fat or sugar. Once a pattern of healthy eating is established, it would be easier to carry through such a lifestyle and for the children to follow suit.
School canteens must be urged to sell only highly nutritious food and drinks. Vending machines that sell soft drinks and drinks that are spiked with sugar should be banned. Hence, school going children would be exposed to healthy eating form young.
Daily exercise is vital. In fact, schools should implement Physical education on a daily basis rather than twice weekly. Only the minority are actively involved in sports. Most students are sedentary and prefer to concentrate on their studies as they consider indulging in physical activities a waste of time. By enforcing regular exercise daily, these students would be exposed to the importance and benefits of exercise.
Many parents and adults do not allocate time for physical activity. A large number of them work long hours and return home late thereby depriving themselves of the benefits of exercise. Parents must lead an exemplary life which can benefit their children by increasing awareness on the health benefits of exercising regularly. Bringing their children for walks in the morning or evening is a good start to achieve this goal. They should become members of clubs which have swimming pools and gym facilities. During the weekend, the family can strengthen their bond by adjourning to clubs for exercise and a healthy meal after that.
In short, leading a healthy lifestyle is a conscious decision. One can ignore that and lead a life that exposes one to many healthy hazards. it is important to recognize that a healthy living ensures a longer life span as well as a life free of disease and complications.