The childhood obesity cure hiding in your own backyard

I haven’t talked about kids’ health issues for a while, but this latest study on childhood obesity really struck a chord with me.

As you may know, my first book Feed Your Kids Well was about how many common everyday childhood illnesses could be avoided with proper nutrition. And it provided a common-sense guide for parents to follow when choosing healthy foods for their family — with the goal of preventing their kids from becoming overweight or obese, and ultimately cutting their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

I had high hopes when I wrote that book years ago — but sadly the problem has only gotten worse.

And the reasons go far beyond just what we feed our kids.

A new study out of the UK has found that children that have no access to green spaces are more likely to spend their childhood being overweight or obese.

The researchers accessed data from the Millennium Cohort Study and then specifically looked at surveys taken for around 6,500 children, who were all born between 2000-2001. These surveys were taken beginning at 9 months, and then at 3, 5, and, 7 years.

What they found was downright tragic.

Because at age 7, nearly 20% of all the children they studied were overweight or obese.

And, overall, limited access to green space increased the odds of becoming overweight or obese by 25%.

The fact is, a child’s fate is pretty much set by age 5 when it comes to their weight. And parents are the ones who need to be held responsible for this.

My argument has always been, since exercise is a learned habit just as much as eating is, we need to provide the guidance our kids need when they are young. Not only to help them maintain a healthy weight now, but to set the foundation for a lifetime of health.

Believe me, I live in Manhattan where there is very limited green space. And yet I see people finding ways to keep themselves — and their children — active in this city.

So if you don’t have yard and there’s no playground in your neighborhood, find a community park or zoo. Somewhere that’s safe and where you can let your kids or grandkids run and play for a while.

Better yet, involve them in the search. If you can, take walks to seek out new places to visit. You’ll all get some physical activity — and have fun at the same time. And nothing motivates kids more than fun and a little adventure.

We tend to lavish our children with so many material things — perhaps it’s time we started to lavish them with the gift of health.