Physical Activity


What leads to weight gain?
Why is there concern about overweight and obesity in children?
Why is physical activity important for young children?*
What can you do about your child's weight?
Need more information?

Physical activity can help children and adults maintain a healthy weight!

Overweight and obesity rates continue to increase in the U.S. as well as Maine.

  Overweight and Obese Obese
U.S. adults 68% 33.8%
Maine adults   25.2%
U.S. children 2-19 years   17%
U.S. children 2-5 years   10.4%
U.S. children 6-11 years   19.6%
U.S. children 12-19 years   18.1%

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What leads to weight gain?

  • Poor food choices
  • Lack of physical activity (play time for children; leisure time physical activity for adults)
  • Screen time (television, computer time, video games, etc) – when children have a lot of screen time in their day, they not only have less time for physical play time, but there is a good chance they are doing "mindless" eating, are seeing many ads for unhealthy foods (which influence food purchases later); screen time also lowers a person's metabolic rate (number of calories the body uses while at rest)
  • Surroundings (such as busy streets which are not safe areas for children to play outside)
  • Genetics (what we were born with)

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Why is there concern about overweight and obesity in children?

  • Increases the risk of heart disease – obese children have higher rates of "adult" problems, including high cholesterol and increased blood pressure
  • Increased rates of Type 2 Diabetes (in the past, this was a problem only found in overweight adults)
  • Sleep apnea (also a problem normally only for overweight adults)
  • Increased asthma problems
  • If a child is obese, he or she will most likely be an obese adult
  • Higher health care costs over a lifetime

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Why is physical activity important for young children?*

Active play helps babies and young children to develop normally. Through playing, children learn:

  • About their bodies
  • What their bodies can do
  • How to control things around them
  • Important motor skills like how to crawl, walk, run, hop, skip, jump, and slide

Active play enhances skills children will need later in life for math, science and reading.

*Information from: Parent's Guide to Physical Play, The Diane Lindner-Goldberg Child Institute, Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

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What can you do about your child's weight?

Get active with your children!

Choose healthy foods for your family – remember that a parent's job is to choose what foods to feed your children. If you have questions about healthy food choices, talk to your WIC counselor.

  • Include fruits and/or vegetables at every meal.
  • Choose low-fat dairy foods for your family.
  • Limit high-calorie snack foods in the house (like chips, cookies, or brownies).
  • Keep fresh fruits handy for snacks.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages (including fruit juice); provide children with water when they are thirsty between meals.

Set a good example! Make playtime a part of your day?young children are more likely to be involved in active play if you join them. Show them that active play is fun!

  • Reward good behavior with fitness activities, not food or extra screen time. Take a walk, go swimming, or have snow play time.
  • Look for ways to spend family time in active play. Go biking or walking together, fly a kite, or plan a day at the beach together.
  • Let your children see you doing active things every day
  • Limit screen time; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: No TV or screen time for children 2 years or younger, and no more than 2 hours screen time per day for children older than 2 years.

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Need more information? Try these links:

Head Start Body Start

Keep ME Well

Healthy Maine Partnerships

Walking Trails in Maine

Tips for Parents: Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight

We Can! Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition

Eat Smart. Play Hard

Choose My Plate for healthy eating tips for you and your family

Fruits and Veggies More Matters

Let's Go! Resources

President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports


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