PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Children will continue to learn from home for the rest of the school year, and being without gym class, recess and sports can cause them to be much less active.
Dr. Kevin Baill, the medical director of outpatient services and chief of addiction services at Butler Hospital, says childhood obesity is a significant health problem that’s been gradually getting worse.
According to the R.I. Department of Health, data from 2019 shows prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, roughly 24% of middle school students exercised for an hour each day.
“I think the data can be extrapolated from what we already know about when kids take summers off,” Dr. Baill said. “Not being in school leads to more inactivity, more screen time, more weight gain, worse nutrition in general when you look at kids in that period of time.”
Children being unable to play with friends due to social distancing poses a challenge when it comes to being active.
“A lot of kids are staying indoors a lot more, and we’re kind of sending out a lot of public health messages about importance of social distancing, but it makes it … just all of these bad habits kind of become the default, I think,” Dr. Baill added.
He said parents may have to be a little more creative when it comes to getting their kids moving.
“I think most parents would say it’s a daily struggle, can be frustrating at times,” Baill said.
He suggests being a model of good behavior.
“Engaging your kid in some kind of physical activity, I think would be helpful,” he said. “Whether it’s inside the house or outside the house, engaging with them to do those things would be good.”
Any time spent outdoors is good, according to Dr. Baill.
“Getting outside as much as possible is beneficial for everybody’s mental health,” he explained.
He also encouraged parents to make a schedule and stick to it.
“I think having a schedule in this lockdown period is critical,” Dr. Baill said, adding that maintaining a sleep schedule is just as important.
“That’s another thing that contributes to inactivity and poor nutrition,” he said. “It’s kind of like a total system thing that leads to people ending up gaining weight.”
Dr. Baill also advised parents to limit their kids’ screen time when possible and have healthy food options available for them to eat.
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