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The Kids Aren’t All Right

Childhood obesity may be at the root of more problems than you think.

We all know about the long-term risks of childhood obesity, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. But a recent study by UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities points to obesity as the root of some surprising problems.

  • The Outcomes: Compared to non-overweight kids, obese children ages 10 to 17 have a higher risk of physical ailments (bone, joint, and muscle problems; and asthma, allergies, and ear infections) and developmental delays, behavioral problems, grade repetition, depression, and ADHD.
  • The Triggers: The study, published by the Academic Pediatric Association (APA) in 2013, pointed to stress as a potential key connection between weight and health issues. It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario, the APA says, because stress may contribute to the risk of obesity and related issues, while obesity and health issues may contribute to stress.
  • The Solution: The study is a wake-up call to doctors, parents, teachers, and policy makers that childhood obesity needs to be addressed in a much more aggressive way. And that brings it back to something we all know: Exercise relieves stress and is good for the body and mind.

“We, as fitness professionals, can be leaders in turning this around,” says Latreal Mitchell, NASM-CPT, CES, YES, founder of the nonprofit Fitness Bunch Foundation and a long-time childhood obesity activist. Mitchell says NASM’s Youth Exercise Specialist (YES) program can give trainers the tools they need to keep kids engaged.

“We have to help these kids—and their parents—get smarter about nutrition and exercise,” Mitchell says. “If we do that, we can make a huge difference.”