Creating fit and healthy children

SUSAN SIMPSON Modified: March 4, 2010 at 10:55 am •  Published: June 26, 2009
Eric Fisher says his sons are crazy about sports, so staying active comes easily.

The Nichols Hills family’s summer is filled with weightlifting camps, preseason football, bicycling riding and running.

“For them, it’s just their normal life,” Fisher said. “We have seven bicycles in our garage for the five of us.”

The family eats healthy, and the kids are limited to one non-caffeinated soft drink per day. Energy drinks like Red Bull are the only point of dispute.

“They love energy drinks, which are just cans of sugar and caffeine,” Fisher said. “Those are completely off-limits at my house.”

Experts say the Fisher family’s lifestyle means the children are not likely to become obese, now or as adults.

But too few families are making efforts to move more and eat better, leading to an epidemic in this country of fat kids.

The prevalence of overweight and obese children has tripled in the last three decades. Teenagers have been the hardest hit, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveys from the late 1970s showed about 5 percent of teenagers were obese. That's risen to more than 17 percent in recent years.

Overweight and obese children are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes — all factors related to heart disease. Experts also believe children who are overweight before age 8 are more likely to face severe obesity in adulthood.

“We are terrified of the disease progression we are seeing in kids,” said Deborah Shropshire, a pediatrician with OU Physicians.

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Tips for Fit Families

Although childhood obesity has increased for all children over time, there are disparities among racial and ethnic groups.

According to Action for Healthy Kids:

* 18.5 percent of black boys and 22 percent of Mexican-American boys are overweight or obese.

* 28 percent of black girls aged 12 to 19 are obese, as are 20 percent of Mexican-American girls.

For more on preventing childhood obesity:

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