According to the CDC, more than one-third of American adults struggle with obesity. This epidemic costs American families who end up taking care of relatives with obesity-related illnesses, and it has a further negative impact - increasing healthcare costs that strain the country's budget. But there is good news. Many of the issues surrounding adult and child obesity can be mitigated by addressing health topics like weight management at a young age.
The Increase in Obesity
Currently, about one in three American youth are overweight or obese. Obesity in children is identified as having a body mass index in the 95th percentile or greater. There has been a dramatic increase in obesity in school-age children since the 1970s. During the 1971-1974 time span, only four percent of 6 to 11-year-old kids were classified as obese. That number more than quadrupled to 18 percent in 2009-2010 data reports.
There was a similar increase in older children with cases of obesity in adolescents age 12-19 increasing from 6.1-18.4% from 1971-74 to 2009-10. In fact, the numbers have changed so dramatically that child obesity is now the number one concern of parents in the United States. The former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, warned, "Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."
Acknowledging the Issue Soon than Later
Addressing health topics at a young age provides individuals with the time necessary to instill good habits and take effective steps toward losing or maintaining weight. Sustainable weight management occurs gradually and includes a series of positive changes. Research in adults has shown that standing for approximately two hours a day can burn up to twenty pounds in one year.
Society understands that adults must be intentional about physical activity, but it is so often assumed that kids will simply burn the appropriate amount of calories through play. Rising child obesity numbers suggest that this is a false assumption. Part of the problem is active playtime, in general, has decreased. Kids are choosing video games over tag with friends, and hoverboards over bicycles. Kids are also striving to reach higher and higher expectations set for them. Between learning new languages, technologies, and development techniques, time for physical activity is decreasing at an alarming rate.
A "Passive" Solution Making a Huge Difference
But a recent study has shown how passive calorie expenditure could play an important role in helping kids reach and maintain appropriate body weight. Passive calorie expenditure is important because it enables calorie loss even when weight management isn't the primary focus. For example, a manager working on a presentation for company executives will burn more calories while standing and designing PowerPoint slides, than he would if he were sitting down even though exercise isn't his primary objective at the time.
The research that shows the benefit of standing in adults is being expanded to assess the benefits of standing for children and the results are promising. Children in school spend the majority of their day seated. Their minds and emotions are being stimulated, but their body is largely inactive. One study on child obesity monitored first-grade children in Texas and found that using stand-up desks in classrooms increased calorie expenditure by 17% in the study group. This research is simply the first step in proving what many already know. Intermittent standing is beneficial for both children and adults, and standing desks provide an excellent way for children to burn extra calories to aid weight management and fight childhood obesity.