19.3% of children in the U.S. (ages 2-19) are battling childhood obesity. We obviously don’t need to tell you that there’s a major problem in our country. What you might not know, however, is that infants as young as 4 months can get ahead of that battle by starting a fitness regimen. Yes, seriously!
Manish Vakil is the founder and CEO of Tumbles kid’s gyms, which was specifically founded to combat childhood obesity. We chatted with him about this growing epidemic and what parents can do about it.
Momtastic: What can parents do to prevent obesity from the get-go?
Manish Vakil: Staying active as a parent will provide a positive model for kids. It is easy to let the exhaustion of parenthood take over and let yourself sit in front of a screen or scroll through your phone and not leave the house. Granted, Covid restrictions have made outings more difficult, but you can go for walks, bik and visit public parks. Also, eating meals at a regular time and eating healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables.
Parents often get into the habit of using a screen to entertain or babysit their children. That is the “easy win.” However, putting a screen in front of an infant quickly turns into a routine/habit and has negative side effects (immediacy, constant entertainment/no self-soothing or self-entertainment, little imaginative thought, etc.).
Momtastic: How can parents make sure their children are active enough? What is active enough?
Manish Vakil: Modeling active behavior and interacting with babies and children. Go to a playground, swing, take a walk or get involved in a parent-child class. All of these activities encourage movement, stimulation, and bonding and aid with vestibular stimulation (balancing/walking skills), speech skills, social skills, etc. “Active enough” is hard to identify, as it is subjective. Personally, I treated my kids to at least two hours a day of activity including walks, playgrounds, or parent-child classes.
Momtastic: What if the child does not like to move?
Manish Vakil: All kids have likes and dislikes. Making the activity fun and “hiding” the benefit can sometimes work if the child is movement-averse. In Tumbles, we play games and use activities that feel fun for the kids — they do not realize that it is exercise, but their bodies benefit from the exercise and challenge.
Momtastic: How young should parents start looking for signs of obesity?
Manish Vakil: Doctors determine whether or not a child is overweight or obese during regular checkups through the use of Age-based Pediatric Growth Reference Charts and physical measurements. This is typically started at the first visit. Since all children develop differently, most conversations about proper nutrition begin when the child is no longer dependent on breast milk or formula. Parents are asked about food intake, milk (cow) intake, snacks, “picky eating” habits, etc, to determine what, if anything, needs to change in order to prevent a child from being overweight/obese.
How are you staving off obesity within your family?