Childhood obesity is a serious problem in many developed countries putting kids at risk for poor health. In the US, obesity now affects 1 in 6 children.
The causes of excess weight gain in young people are similar to those in adults, including factors such as a person’s behavior and genetics. Weight management is a long-term approach to a healthy lifestyle. It includes a balance of healthy eating and physical exercise.
Fitness trackers have been one of the top trends of 2016, with more set to come over the next few years. Trackers for children may not yet be as commonplace as they are for adults, but perhaps they should be. These devices are designed to help your kids get fitter and healthier, while making counting steps feel like a fun game.
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As part of a pilot study, an Australian hospital is now giving overweight kids fitness trackers to help them to get fit. The Children’s Hospital Westmead is hoping that wearables, which monitor heart rate, sleep patterns and the number of steps, will help in the battle against the bulge.
Research Dietitian Dr Megan Gow tried out the technology during a recent type-two diabetes study and found that more than 50% of children got more motivated when wearing a fitness tracker. Dr Gow and her team are hoping the data beamed from wearables will help provide more targeted treatment for the 35 kids participating in the obesity study.
“Instead of having to always focus on their diet, we can ask them about how their steps have been going,” Dr Gow said.
“If they have been taking a lot of steps I can say ‘great work. If they are falling behind, I will know this sooner and find out what is going on.”
Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity. Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. If children have obesity, their obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are likely to be more severe.
The major benefit of using a fitness tracker is motivation. By setting goals, getting feedback and being rewarded, kids are encouraged to do more.
“We’ve found that parents have been relieved of the pressure of nagging their kids about getting out and active,” Dr Gow added.