New study shows how pandemic created unhealthy habits for children

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Physicians are raising concerns over new data from the American Medical Association that shows an increase in the percentage of overweight or obese children, specifically those ages 5-11.

Dr. Stephanie Holt is a physician with the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Physician Group, and she is just one of many health experts expressing her concerns.

“Different things that have been getting worse unfortunately including the weights, anxiety — and all of that has been getting worse because we have not been having kids moving around as much; we’ve been having them sit in front of screens a lot more, doing school work, and all of the other extra-curriculars that shut down,” Holt said.

Many children have formed unhealthy habits from their pandemic lifestyle, like a lack of physical activity and not eating a nutritional diet.

The American Medical Association found that children ages 5-11 had an average weight gain of five pounds, whereas overweight/obesity increased from 36.2% to 45.7%.

“Everything is going in the wrong direction with this. It’s just been a trend that we’ve been seeing, and we saw a lot of people virtually last year, so we didn’t have a lot of those weight points in the clinic as much. But whereas now we’re getting everybody back in, things are not where they were two years ago when we would see them,” Holt said.

“So, we’ll likely be seeing a rise in things like diabetes, high blood pressure, common things that happen with anyone who is overweight — those could definitely be increasing, and in kids those things are harder to manage,” Dr. Holt said.

These health issues could start to appear in their teenage years, or later as an adult.

“Because it’s hard when you’re a teenager to manage the amount of salt that you’re eating, and the amount of sugar that you’re eating; so, we really gotta start them young to try to decrease the things that you’re taking in.” said Holt. “Trying to watch the things that are concentrated sugars — the juices, the sodas, all of our desserts and those processed foods — and form good habits when they get into those teenage years. More fruits, more vegetables, more water.”

Holt said that positive change needs to start at home.

“Doing it all as a family, making the dietary changes, exercise changes all together because then nobody feels like they’re being singled out. So, really, eating meals together, going out on exercise, bike rides; it’s beautiful weather still out.”

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