Health & Medicine

The docs offer advice: Combat obesity starting in preschool

Norman “Chubby” Chaney seemed amusing in the “Our Gang” comedies of the 1930s and ’40s as an overweight child (he was 3 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed 113 pounds). In part, it was because there just weren’t many. Today nearly 18 percent of kids ages 6-11 are obese, as are 21 percent of those 12-19! Obesity is common and not funny, especially when it comes to children.

A lot of factors contribute to this epidemic (hormone disruptors in receipts and plastics, changes in your intestinal bacteria due to processed foods, the digital sit-and-stare-at-a-screen revolution, inner-city environments, high fructose corn syrup, sugary drinks). It can seem hard to keep your child from becoming overweight. But a recent study from Seattle Children’s Hospital might indicate a good place to start: in your preschool.

Researchers found that U.S. preschoolers get only around 48 minutes of active play a day, when they should be getting two hours or more. And this contributes to everything from being overweight to learning and behavior problems. But when preschoolers play actively indoors (remember duck-duck-goose?) or run around outside for even an hour a day, behavior and learning improve, and so does naptime.

So if your child is in day care:

•  Arrange for volunteers to come play active games with the kids.

•  Set up excursions to local parks where kids can explore and play.

•  Provide day care workers with activity-based CDs or videos that will get kids up and moving.

•  And suggest using the Cleveland Clinic’s Food Is Knowledge program for pre-K to first grade.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit