Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies Conference Examines Childhood Obesity

Proper diet and exercise is one of the first steps to preventing childhood obesity.

SUPERIOR, Wisc. – The University of Wisconsin Superior (UWS) has a Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies Conference every year that typically looks at the second half of life.

But this year the university is focused on an issue affecting many young children.

In fact, one in five school age children and young people six to 19 years old in the United States is obese.

We’ve all heard the saying a little extra weight is just baby fat and it’ll go away or a person will outgrow it, but that’s not always the case.

Very often obesity starts when people are young.

“Kids are gaining weight just like adults,” said UWS Health & Human Performance Assistant Professor Kim Rankila. “We have an epidemic of obesity in the United States.”

Health professionals from the Twin Ports area at the Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies Conference are learning how nutrition can contribute to obesity.

“Looking at what toxins there might be in the foods that people are consuming that change their biochemistry and how foods interact with each other,” said Program Manager Esther Gieschen.

There are often underlying causes that can trigger depression and other mental trauma.

“We need to give people some new tools and new ways to approach obesity with their client and their patients,” said Gieschen.

Life as a kid is difficult nowadays and health officials say they’ve seen a connection between obesity and bullying.

“Not being able to run around with kids because they’re heavier,” said said Rankila. “I mean the whole psychological influence of obesity on kids is hard.”

Rankila focused on the physiological changes that occur in a child’s body when he or she is obese. This can lead to more health problems later in life.

“If you look at the obituary you see a whole bunch of young people passing away because of lifestyle health issues, if you want to put it that way,” said Rankila.

Other possible behaviors in obese children include acting out at school and isolation.

More exercise is one of the first steps to preventing childhood obesity.

Schools like Congdon Elementary in Duluth are incorporating more exercise.

Its Walk Around Lake Superior Challenge has students virtually walking the distance around Lake Superior.

This is done with 10 minutes of movement in the classroom.

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