The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Montour County

April 1, 2014

Kids keep moving at community center

DANVILLE — While obesity rates for young children have decreased nationally over the past several years, Pennsylvania has shown a continued increase in that number.

A study released in January by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that national obesity rates among children aged 2 to 5 declined 43 percent from 2003 to 2012, making its current percentage rate 8.4 percent. Pennsylvania, however, is one of three states where children aged 2 to 4 showed a significant increase in obesity rates, said Lisa Bailey-Davis, a research investigator at Geisinger Medical Center’s Center for Health Research.

In addition, more than a quarter of children aged 2 to 11 nationally are still obese, with 17.7 percent of children aged 6 to 11 falling in that category, Bailey Davis said.

Effective ways to curb the numbers are encouraging physical activity and to limiting intake of sugary drinks, according to Bailey-Davis.

In January, the New England Journal of Medicine said obesity risk is established for most children at age 5. The study found that 12.4 percent of kids entering kindergarten were obese, and another 14.9 percent were overweight. Of those who were overweight, half became obese by eighth-grade. This suggested a greater need for obesity prevention, Bailey-Davis said, as obese children are at greater risk for later health complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

One contributing factor to obesity has been children spending more time with TV, computers and video games, Bailey-Davis said. In fact, studies have shown that children who have a TV in their bedroom are at a greater risk of obesity.

Children should be encouraged to have at least one hour of active, physical play, whether free form or formally organized by a coach.

Jean Knouse, director of the Danville Area Community Center, said there has always been a steady amount of children at the center participating in activities such as swimming and basketball.

“If we’ve seen an increase in anything its probably children involved in fitness classes,” she said.

The center has a yoga class and strength conditioning class for children, and will start a cross fit athletic program this month.

“We’ve been working on childhood obesity for 10 years, in terms of making sure our camp programs, both after school and summer, have lots of physical activity and not just sit down activities,” Knouse said.

Knouse is also concerned by a recent study she read which suggests this may be the first generation who won’t outlive their parents. She said she sees kids at the community center who use their phones to send emails to someone across the room. It’s not helpful when trying to combat sedentary behavior, she said.

In addition to physical activity, Bailey-Davis recommended taking children to annual check-ups. It provides time to interact with a child’s pediatrician and monitor their growth. If a child has an increased or decreased growth rate, that can signal a health risk.

Bailey-Davis also recommended limiting sugary juices to between four to six ounces a day for children ages 2 to 5.

The decrease of the rate among 2- to 5-year olds is in part based on the success of the White House’s “Let’s Move” campaign, Bailey-Davis said. A lot of the efforts of that program have been focused on making policy and environmental changes at schools and other childcare settings.

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