New Research Suggests Healthy Moms Mean Less Obesity in Kids

New Research Suggests Healthy Moms Mean Less Obesity in Kids

We’ve known for years about the growing trend of obesity among children and adolescents in America. Well, that trend is now a statistic, leading many researchers and health experts to predict that for the first time in more than 25 years, due in part to obesity-related illnesses, our children’s life spans will be shorter than our own.

The study, conducted at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, focused on how a mother’s lifestyle during her kids’ childhood and adolescence affects the risk of those children becoming obese before reaching adulthood. According to the findings, when mothers demonstrated five specific healthy-lifestyle factors, their children were 75 percent less likely to become obese than children of mothers who embraced none of the factors. Even with one of the factors present in a mother’s lifestyle, researchers found that children’s risk of obesity dropped.

The 5 healthy-lifestyle factors:

  1. Healthy diet
  2. BMI in the normal range
  3. Not smoking
  4. Limited consumption of alcohol
  5. 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise

Children naturally gravitate toward what they observe both parents doing.

It’s no secret that mothers can have a huge influence over their children’s behavior and lifestyle and, consequently, the way they will live as adults. The research from Harvard is welcome news, because it shows how mothers can be instrumental in determining their kids’ health now and in the future.

Though the study focused only on mothers, fathers also serve as role models for their children. From an early age, children naturally gravitate toward what they observe both parents doing. The research didn’t indicate that mothers in the study sat their children down and lectured them on how to follow healthy-lifestyle practices. Rather, it was simply the mothers’ own lifestyle demonstrations that “rubbed off” on their children and caused them to also develop healthier patterns of their own.

Mothers can have a huge influence over their children’s behavior and lifestyle.

Let’s look a little more closely at these five healthy-lifestyle factors.

1. Healthy diet

Diet is a complex subject, but most experts agree that healthy eating includes:

  • Little or no processed sugar (candy, soft drinks, etc.)
  • Limited saturated fat, such as what is found in most meats
  • More natural fruits, vegetables and grains, with less processed (packaged, prepared) foods
  • Plenty of fresh water to keep your system balanced and performing at peak levels

2. BMI in the normal range

BMI stands for body mass index and is a measure of body fat based on weight and height. A simple test on a BMI calculator shows where you may fall on the BMI scale ranging from underweight to obese, but you may also get tested at your doctor’s office, a local gym or fitness center, or even a nearby pharmacy. Although a BMI test can’t distinguish between muscle and fat, it may inform doctors of a patient’s risk of weight-related health problems.

3. Not smoking

Smoking in itself doesn’t add pounds to your body, but it does decrease your lung and cardio capacity, which may prevent a person from engaging in obesity-fighting vigorous exercise.

4. Limited consumption of alcohol

Like smoking, large amounts of alcohol consumed regularly can cause you to neglect exercise. But unlike smoking, alcohol contains high concentrations of empty calories that quickly turn to fat.

5. 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise

This can be broken down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of aerobic-based exercise, such as power walking, swimming, hiking or biking. Start slow and work up to this level after you’ve been checked out by a doctor.

Just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week may help set a healthy example for children.

It’s never too late to begin exerting a positive influence on our children’s futures.

The research from the Harvard study indicates that when these five healthy-lifestyle factors are demonstrated by moms, there’s a 75 percent chance their children will follow suit and avoid being part of the obesity epidemic that America now faces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5 percent of U.S. children between 2 and 19 years old are obese. That’s about 13.7 million young people. Here are the obesity percentages by age group:

  • Ages 2 through 5: 13.9 percent
  • Ages 6 through 11: 18.4 percent
  • Ages 12 through 19: 20.6 percent

It’s never too late to begin exerting a positive influence on our children’s futures. Whether you don’t exercise enough or tend to eat more out of boxes than produce bags, we created Taking On Healthy to help our community make a positive change. We can all make strides to increase the quality and length of our own lives while being key factors in how our children fare through adolescence and into adulthood. Like with everything else, it starts with a first step. Will you take that step today?

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