Just when you thought the consequences of our sagging economy could not be worse, think again. The obesity rate among children in the U.S. has already reached epidemic proportions, and now the economy may be driving some parents to substitute fast foods for healthy foods in an effort to manage their household budgets, according to a recent report by AFP published on Yahoo. The result is an entirely new menace facing our children.

"There is concern with 'recession obesity' apart from the general trend toward an increasing number of obese American children," said Kenneth Land, project director of the Child Well-Being Index, which tracks how American children are faring socially, emotionally, in terms of education and health. Land, a sociology professor at Duke University, says further, “There is a concern that this will cause an uptick in the rate of overweight children and adolescents.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “American society has become 'obesogenic,' characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity.” Since this observation refers to our population in general, one can easily project how this will likely bode for our children who would appear to be predisposed by their surroundings to an obesogenic future and unavoidably influenced by their often overweight parents and other overweight adults in their lives. A recession only exacerbates the problem.

What to do? Clearly there is only so much money to go around in each household, and the reality is that some families may, indeed, be forced to buy fast foods to make ends meet. However, even the “greasiest spoons” have more healthy selections than ever before, and parents can help children to make better choices other than just “what tastes good.” Americans already spend more than $110 billion annually on fast foods. Surely we can spend that money more wisely even if we spend it at the same fast food places.

Another obvious solution to combating recession obesity is to encourage your children to be more physically active. Physical education in our schools has been on the decline for years, and playgrounds are fenced off from use during after-school hours, but public playgrounds and recreation areas abound in almost every community. Check to see if your neighborhood has a par course which can be used by children and adults alike for a good all-around – and fun - workout for the whole family.

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day including aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening. To some parents, this might sound like a lot but, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children aged 6 and under already spend an average of two hours a day playing video games, using computers, and watching TV and videos.

Our children are experiencing health problems previously thought to be limited only to adults – problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, and more – because of being overweight or obese. “Children born in the year 2000 or later are not expected to outlive their parents" said Dr. David Katz of the Yale Preventive Medicine Research Center in New Haven, Connecticut at a nutrition conference in April 2005. A sobering thought.

Author's Bio: 

Jim is a 41-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and internationally recognized fitness consultant.