today the focus is on a worldwide concern of the 21st century: childhood overweight and obesity.
Obesity and overweight are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that represents a risk for health. An increased Body Mass Index (BMI), which is an index relating weight (expressed in kg) to height (expressed in m2) of the person, is a significant risk factor for the onset of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
As for children (5-19 years), a BMI greater than 1 standard deviation above the WHO Growth Reference median indicates an overweight-child, while a BMI greater than 2 standard deviations above the WHO Growth Reference median states an obese-child.
In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized obesity as a global epidemic that tripled since 1975: over 340 million children and adolescents from 5 to 19 years old were overweight and obese in 2016.
The principal causes of childhood overweight and obesity are an imbalance between the energy intake and the energy expenditure (nutritional factor) due to a global shift in diet-behaviour and a decrease in the physical activity (PA) levels which results in a sedentary lifestyle.
Moreover, other aspects such as the living environment, the socioeconomic status of the family and the shift in the nowadays lifestyle influence the developing of this global concern.
How to face the problem
At the individual level, people can start eating healthy food avoiding the so-called “junk foods” and engaging in regular PA: for children, WHO’s recommendations suggest at least 60 minutes a day.
Unfortunately, changes in dietary habits also go hand in hand with new sedentary leisure time activities (e.g., tablet, play-station) which encourage insufficient PA’s practice: fewer children run or play outdoors and more and more remain locked in their virtual world.
Thus, it is important to support and promote the regular practice of PA in childhood to avoid being caged in sedentariness.
Physical inactivity among children and youth is a real and growing problem that needs a multi-component approach, which is important since today’s youth will be tomorrow adults.
World Health Organization (WHO) 1 April 2020. Obesity and overweight.
Dott.ssa Francesca Greco