Earlier this week, the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings published findings of a recent study conducted by the University of Carolina and led by exercise scientist and epidemiologist Edward Archer.
His findings may help to explain the rising rates of obesity among children in a somewhat surprising, indirect way. His team found that young mothers today are much more physically inactive than their counterparts were 40 years ago.
For the study, the team defined physical activity as cooking, cleaning and exercising. Between the years of 1965-2010, mothers of preschoolers went from engaging in 44 hours of physical activity per week to less than 30, resulting in a calorie burn reduction of 1,573 calories per week. Moms of older children (ages 6-18) decreased physical activity from 32 to 21 hours during that same time period; energy expenditure decreased by 1,200 calories a week for this group.
It is true that children learn by example, and if parents are sedentary, the likelihood of their offspring being physically inactive increases exponentially. Studies show that if a child has 1 parent is obese, the likelihood of the child becoming obese is 40%; that percentage doubles to 80% if both parents are obese.
The obstacles obese children will face during the course of their lives can be myriad — they are at a much greater risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
But beyond the physical detriments, obesity in children affects them socially and mentally. Last year the journal Pediatrics reported that cognitive problems are more prevalent in obese children, especially when it comes to math and spelling.
Additionally, some researchers contend that if childhood obesity is not stemmed, the current generation of children could be the first to have a lower life expectancy than their parents — this is tragic and completely unnecessary.
And apparently, according to this latest University of South Carolina study, an absolute key to stemming the childhood obesity tide is to emphasize how important it is for parents to model good health habits, including maintaining a healthy diet and exercise strategy.