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Solving Canada’s Childhood Obesity Epidemic
In a report titled ‘Urban sprawl and its relationship with active transportation, physical activity and obesity in Canadian youth’ by Laura Seliske, William Pickett and Ian Janssen, the researchers stated that ‘Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has nearly tripled among Canadian youth aged 12 to 17, thereby potentially increasing the physical, mental and social problems associated with obesity in young people. Furthermore, obesity tends to persist, with 60% to 90% of obese adolescents remaining obese into adulthood.’
Additionally, ‘in 1978, only 15% of children were overweight or obese. By 2007, Statistics Canada found that 29% of adolescents had unhealthy weights. Most adolescents do not outgrow this problem and in fact, many continue to gain excess weight. If current trends continue, by 2040, up to 70% of adults aged 40 years will be either overweight or obese.’
A Key Health Concern
Obesity is linked to a number of health problems:
• Type-2 diabetes
• Bone and Joint Problems
• High Blood Pressure, Hypertension or Heart Disease
• Sleep Apnea and other breathing problems
• Low self-esteem and negative body image
Adults who have unhealthy weights are at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, strokes and type 2 diabetes. In 2005, the total cost of obesity to Canadians was $4.3 billion; $1.8 billion in indirect healthcare costs, and $2.5 billion in indirect costs. Affected adults may die up to 3 to 7 years earlier than counterparts with a healthy weight.
Kids Need More Exercise!
It’s recommended that children (ages 5 to 11) and youth (ages 12 to 17) get at least 60 minutes of activity a day. Unfortunately, they are getting nowhere near this amount!
The latest evidence from the Canadian Health Measures Survey indicates that only 7% of Canadian kids are meeting the 60 minutes-per-day goal. Childhood obesity rates have increased from 15% to 26% from 1980 to 2004, with rates in the 12-to-17 age group more than doubling—from 14% to 29%. Rates are as high as 41% in Aboriginal youth.’
Harvey Skinner, Dean of the Faculty of Health at York U, at a keynote address in Sept 2012 ‘First Health, Then Medicine.’ presented valuable insight on the current challenges faced by our health care system. Dean Skinner stated that in Canada, 5% of Health Care Funding is spent on the preventative side while 95% is spent on the treatment side.
Get More Active with your Kids for Better Health and Self-Esteem
Physical activity is not only sports – everyday activities are also part of the equation! Below are some suggestions on how to encourage children and youth to be more active:
• Be a good role model by being active yourself
• Make it a family affair by engaging in activities such as skating, walking, hiking, cycling.
• Limit the amount of time they spend surfing the internet, playing video games or watching tv
• Educate them on the importance of daily physical activity being a critical part of staying healthy.
• Applaud them in choosing to be more physically active – self-confidence is a vital part of their success!
• Encourage them to walk or ride their bikes to school.
The Cost of Physical Inactivity is high
Increased physical activity levels can save health-care dollars. $2.1 billion, or about 2.5% of the
total direct health-care costs, can be attributed to physical inactivity. This figure mirrors results reported for the United States (Katzmarzyk, Gledhill, Shepard, CMAJ 2000 November 28;163(11): 1435-1440)
Conservative estimates suggest reducing the prevalence of physical inactivity by 10% would save $150 million annually. Conservative estimates suggest that reducing the prevalence of physical inactivity by 10% would save $150 million annually. This saving does not include indirect costs such as lost productivity due to illness, premature death, or a range of other health conditions, including mental illness and poor quality of life (Katzmarzyk, Gledhill, & Shephard, 2000).
George Stavrou, BA, Psych is a certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant, and Holistic Health and Wellness Coach. George is the author of the “The Stavrou Method: A 12 Week Day By Day Guide To Health, Wellness And Fat Loss For All Levels”, available at www.thestavroumethod.com.