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Obesity Epidemic

America’s youths waistlines continue to expand because of lack of good nutritional values.

By EVAN BERNIER

SOMERVILLE – There is no doubt an epidemic of obesity that is sweeping across the United States.  Reports by groups ranging from The National Center for Health Studies (NCHS) to Time Magazine, have all included that Americans are much larger now than fifteen years ago.  

The battle of the bulge has hit teenage children especially hard. For the first time in U.S. history, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) has noted that the childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past four years. This has many parents worried.

“I think obesity has really become a problem in our society,” said Somerville resident Jessie Baker. “The way our society is, seems to lend itself to be lazier.  We no longer seem to be spending time on physical activities”

Obesity Prevalence in Children According to National Center for Health Studies (In Percent)

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The decrease in physical activities has many youths struggling with weight problems at a much earlier age. This can lead to unhealthy exercise habits that continue towards adulthood. Personal trainer Josh Bleau, believes that learning to exercise and eat right at an early age is very important.

“It is much easier to stay in shape if you have been in shape your whole life. You are able to rely on things that you have been doing for several years to stay in shape, instead of having to shock your body into shape when you hit thirty,” said Bleau. 

In a study reported by USA Today two years ago, they found that the American Medical Association (AMA) spent almost 37 billion dollars in obesity related illnesses.  In 1987, Americans spent $3.7 billion. This is with the numbers adjusted to reflect inflation. Obesity and its related afflictions are on the rise and there are concerns that the lack of education in primary schools and high schools might be adding to the problem.

A 2005 study by the CDC found that obesity is affecting anyone and everyone in society, with no correlatiosn to race, gender or profession. The CDC found one differentiating factor: how much money you make, which is usually directly related to the level of education completed.

“I think that the more knowledge you have on the effects of being overweight, the more likely you are to realize how deadly it is,” said Bleau. 

Many parents feel it is the schools responsibility as well as their own, to make sure that that a healthy lifestyle is emphasized early.

“I really think that schools need to make sure that they take time to educate and give students time to exercise throughout the school day, otherwise they are going to develop unhealthy habits that they won’t ever break,” said Tim Lindgret. “I remember doing a lot of physical activities when I was a kid, but now it seems like they aren’t doing as much as they used to in schools.” 

America’s youth faces another health problem: the availability and temptation of too much food. In a study reported by Men’s Health, the average American watches three hours of television a day, and are inundated with over 10,000 calories worth of food incommercials! 

“We need to make sure that kids are eating right and exercising. They need to develop that healthy lifestyle early on.  It is our job to teach them that, “said Baker. “We can’t allow our children to eat whatever they want, they need to eat a balanced diet.” 

Trainer Bleau think that a heavier emphasis on nutrition would help youths.

“If kids only know how to eat healthy, that is how they would eat,” he said. “They wouldn’t focus on wanting junk food and food that they see on TV. that is not healthy at all.”

Teaching youths healthier eating is a step in the right direction, but it is also a step that parents need to help schools with.

“It is important that at home kids are eating healthy and not just eating at McDonalds,” said Baker. “If they realize they like fruits and vegetables, they will eat more of them and stay away from the junk food.”

While there is no quick solution to the ever expanding waistlines of America, there is hope for America. 

“I think we really have started to focus as a society on becoming healthier and living a healthier lifestyle. I think people are realizing that there are serious consequences to being overweight,” said Bleau.