The Many Causes of Childhood Obesity


Knowing the causes of childhood obesity can help explain why the problem is an epidemic in many parts of the world. Many environmental factors influence the ability and motivation to make healthy choices, including the following:

Sugary Drinks and Unhealthy School Lunches

Most school-aged children enjoy meals, beverages, and snacks at school. Unfortunately, many schools offer unhealthy foods for lunch and still offer sugary drinks, like sodas and fruit juices. Students have access to these items throughout the day from the cafeteria and vending machines, and at school parties, fundraisers, and athletic events, but teaching them to make healthier choices at school can help prevent obesity.

Junk Foods and Advertising

Easy access to junk foods is one of the leading causes of childhood obesity. Children who turn on the television or open a magazine are inundated with eye-catching advertisements for junk foods like fast foods, potato chips, and sodas. These highly-advertised foods are often high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugars, while offering little nutritional value. In contrast, healthier foods receive little to no advertising.

Keep healthy snacks like fresh fruits and veggies easily available to encourage your children to swap junk foods for healthier options.

Lack of Physical Activity in Schools

One of the most significant causes of childhood obesity is lack of physical activity. Many young people do not get the recommended hour of aerobic physical exercise each day. Attendance in physical education classes is waning, and quality programs are often unavailable.

Make physical activity a part of your normal family routine. Go for a family bike ride after dinner, spend the weekends hiking, and find ways to get active together.

No Safe Places to Play

Children in many communities are unable to enjoy parks and recreational facilities. These spaces may not be safe, or children may not feel safe walking or biking to these areas. Many children do not have any access to community centers, parks, or even sidewalks in their communities.

Make it a priority to take your children to safe parks and play spaces. Form a neighborhood watch group or organize play dates so children have a safe place in which to exercise.

What Can Be Done?

Now that you understand some of the leading causes of childhood obesity, it is time to take action. United Way iwould like you to get involved with our Fit Kids project and enable children to live healthier lives.