Celebrate (?) Childhood Obesity Month

We now have a month dedicated to the childhood obesity epidemic. And the observance comes none-too-soon, considering it appears our kids may be even bigger than we realized.

As Take A Child Outside Week draws to a close and as we segue into National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month comes the disturbing news that the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic may be even worse than the numbers suggest. First, to recap those numbers: Nearly 20 percent (19.6) of the nation’s kids ages 6-11 were considered obese in 2008 (up from 6.5 percent in 1980), while 18.1 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds were obese in 2008, up from just 5 percent in 1980; In North Carolina, more than a third of our kids are either obese or overweight.

Bad as those numbers are, the National Council on Childhood Obesity Awareness Month says one of five parents may be guilty in under-reporting their child’s weight, thereby skewing the statistics. One of the goals of October’s inaugural National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is to raise awareness about the problem and give parents and kids direction in trying to live a healthy life.

Now, perhaps you’re thinking that the issue is overblown, who cares if Dick isn’t on the track team, or Jane doesn’t do gymnastics: They need to focus more on their studies so they can compete in this increasingly competitive global climate. Which is exactly why they need to be active, according to a recent study that found a link between physical activity and brain development in 9- and 10-year-old kids. According to MRI results, kids who are more active tend to have a bigger hippocampus, the hippocampus being a device inside the brain associated with learning and memory, specifically with spatial reasoning and other cognitive tasks. So, which do you want for your kids: A bigger hippocampus or gluteus maximus?

And despite the rain, this is a great time to start bulking up your child’s hippocampus. As posted last week, this is Take A Child Outside Week and there are all sorts of programs going on aimed at getting your kids moving outdoors. Thursday, for instance, there’s a TACO event scheduled at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Prairie Ridge facility in Raleigh.

Go here for more on TACO and where to find TACO-related events statewide.

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