Childhood Obesity, COVID and Summer Activities

One in five children today are clinically obese, according to U.S. data. That’s a staggering statistic. Practicing an active lifestyle at an early age with your children is important. Whether you’re making it a family priority for the first time, or if COVID-19 has temporarily derailed you and you need to get back on track, here are ideas to get outside and active this summer.

Understand Obesity in Kids

As kids grow and develop, their body weight naturally fluctuates a bit as they go through various stages. At your child’s yearly checkup, the doctor will measure their weight and compare it to growth charts, your child’s personal history and your family history to make sure they’re staying in a healthy range.

Children become overweight for a variety of reasons. Some reasons include family eating habits, community factors, what they eat and drink and how much exercise they get.

Unfortunately, being overweight can set a child up to experience serious issues, such as:

  • Breathing problems
  • Heart disease
  • Joint problems
  • Social problems
  • Type 2 diabetes

Make Time to Play: 60 Minutes a Day

With busy family schedules and children spending more time in front of screens, there can be fewer hours in the day to let them run, jump, climb and swing. But it’s worth making an intentional plan if you’re worried your child isn’t getting enough physical activity. Remember:

  • Kids aged 6 to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day
  • Kids aged 3 to 5 should stay active throughout the day to help their growth and development

Anything that gets your kiddos up and moving — and gets their heart rate up — is a great place to start. Aim to allow both structured and unstructured activities. Work to help your child find physical activities they enjoy so they’re more likely to keep it up.

Move Forward Together

A great way to help your kids lead a healthy lifestyle is to lead one yourself. They’ll learn from your example. It helps when everyone feels like they’re on the same team. Try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Cut back on sugary drinks and make regular physical activity a priority.

Take a look at your summer calendar to make sure you’ve included enough regular, active play. If you want to kick-start a new routine, here are a few ideas to get moving as a family:

Plan Backyard Hangouts:

  • Blow bubbles and see who can catch the most
  • Build a backyard obstacle course
  • Chalk out a hopscotch or scooter-trick course
  • Follow each other’s lead with Simon Says
  • Plant a garden or work together in the yard 

Relive Your Youth: 

  • Get competitive with frisbee, kickball or tug of war
  • Have a jump rope or hula hoop contest
  • Make a slip ‘n slide using a plastic tarp
  • Play hide and seek or tag outside
  • Teach each other your coolest dance moves 

Take Your Fun on the Go:

  • Check out an interesting local attraction
  • Get together safely with friends at the playground or pool
  • Head out on a family bike ride
  • Make a picnic to take to the park
  • Walk the dog (or a neighbor’s dog!)

Enjoy a Healthy Summer 

Get out and enjoy yourself. It will feel great to take in some fresh air — and to get back to your favorite physical activities. As long as you plan ahead and follow local health and safety guidelines, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a very active and healthy summer with your kids.

Scott Eden, MD, is a practicing family medicine physician at Anne Arundel Medical Group Chesapeake Family Medicine in Annapolis.