For the CDC study, researchers examined 432,302 adolescents aged two to 19. According to the findings, the young participants doubled their body mass index (BMI) since the start of the pandemic, where most children had to stay at home due to enforced lockdowns and experienced social isolation.
The organization also noted that the pandemic caused disruptive changes such as school closures, disrupted routines and increased stress. At the same time, children has less opportunity for regular physical activity and proper nutrition, two factors that contributed significantly to increased weight gain among children and adolescents.
According to the report, among the children observed for the study, "the rate of body mass index (BMI) increase approximately doubled during the pandemic compared to a prepandemic period." (Related: More children have become obese during the COVID-19 lockdowns, says study.)
But children were already suffering from obesity even before the pandemic began.
Before the pandemic, 19.3 percent of children were considered obese. Now, the figure is at 22.4 percent. While the increase doesn't seem like something to worry about, childhood obesity is linked to many health issues later in life like diabetes, heart disease and even depression.
These common issues also currently hound adults who are obese, highlighting the need to prevent obesity among children before it's too late.
Between March and November of 2020, the CDC discovered that those with moderate or severe obesity gained on average one and 1.2 pounds per month, meaning there was a 6.1 to 7.3-pound increase within six months.
During the same period, even children with healthier BMIs had a 2.7-pound increase. Out of all the age groups, those aged six to 11 experienced the "largest increase in their rate of BMI change."
During the pandemic, early child care and education settings and schools were closed, with classes being conducted online or via hybrid learning environments. The agency also said that the enforced school closures and different classroom settings might be linked to children not having enough time to play and be physically active or kids eating more junk food.
As venues serving young students gradually reopen, the CDC advised that these issues caused by the pandemic must be addressed immediately to ensure that the health of children in America and across the world is improved. To deal with childhood obesity, the CDC said that children, adolescents and families must have "ample opportunities for proper nutrition and regular physical activity."
If you have kids at home and you're worried about their health during the pandemic, try some of the tips below to help them stay active, improve their eating habits and prevent obesity.
Focus on ensuring their overall health, not achieving a certain weight goal. When dealing with an overweight child, teach them about the importance of having healthy and positive attitudes toward food and physical activity.
Focus on the whole family without putting the spotlight on overweight children. Talk to all family members so you can all work together to improve your physical activity and eating habits.
Be a role model: Eat healthy foods, exercise at home and make healthy snacks. Have set meal and snack times and eat together as much as you can.
Serve a variety of delicious and healthy foods that everyone can enjoy. When preparing snacks, give children healthy options like apple slices with peanut butter or whole grain crackers. Avoid sugar-sweetened fruit juices and opt for organic or homemade fruit juices.
Discourage kids from eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Eating in front of the TV can make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness, which can eventually cause overeating.
When buying groceries, avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Limit your children's intake if sweet and high-fat treats like cake, candy and cookies, or avoid them altogether. Instead, give them healthier desserts like fresh fruit or treats made with less sugar and natural ingredients.
Involve children in meal planning, shopping and meal prep. During these activities, ask them about their food preferences. You can also teach them about nutrition and encourage them to try different kinds of foods.
Encourage physical activity. Take the whole family out for a walk, ride bikes or play active games in your backyard. Give kids a safe, accessible place outside for playtime.
Once their online classes are done, encourage children to try other activities outdoors. Reducing sedentary activities helps increase physical activity, which is good for their overall health.
Be a role model for your kids and stay active while on lockdown. Eat healthy meals and snacks to encourage kids to do the same, which can help prevent childhood obesity during the pandemic.