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Are electronics making kids lazy?

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Computers, fast food and a lack of exercise are just some of the things triggering an epidemic affecting youth in America.

Experts say we are raising a generation of obese kids who will likely suffer serious health consequences as they grow older unless something drastic changes.

Most medical experts agree that childhood obesity occurs when food supply outweighs a person's opportunities for exercise.

Brody Randolph, 5, is getting a checkup. While he is the picture of health, this isn't the case for many children on playgrounds across America.

Since 1980, the obesity rate among children in the United States has tripled.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one out of every six children are obese.

Some children are overweight because obesity runs in their family. For others, it's a matter of making poor food choices either on the part of the child, the parent or both.

With smart phones, computers and video games, our youth are more sedentary than ever before.

Recent studies indicate that most children spend six hours a day in front of a television or computer screen, and that's time they could be outdoors, running or playing.

Experts are quick to point out that socioeconomic conditions also complicate matters.

For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics says 15 million children are living in poverty and opportunities for them to be active outdoors are limited due to a variety of reasons including a lack of outdoor space and safety concerns such as crime in their neighborhoods.   

Dr. Melissa Young-King is a pediatrician and she says children need at least 45 minutes of exercise each day.

"It can be broken up two to three times a day," Young-King adds.



Parents should try to keep track each day of how much time their children are involved in active exercise at school, running and playing at home, or extra-curricular activities like sports.

"Just that daily burning of that energy, you're also burning off the calories, which is going to help to keep us fit and toned," Young-King says.


Childhood obesity can lead to a variety of health problems in adulthood including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma.

She says it's important for parents to set an example by exercising with their children. 



"It's very important because the lifestyles of the children are often mirrored by the lifestyles of the parents," Young-King says.



You can also make slight changes in your family routine to encourage kids to be more active.

"Instead of pizza night, you could have a game night, Twister, the Wii Fit, playing the bowling on the Wii, just an activity, skate night, bicycling," Young-King says.

The Mayo Clinic suggests a number of ways to increase a child's physical activity.

Instead of a traditional birthday party, take your kids to a bowling alley or a climbing wall.

You can also have your child choose an activity each week like going to a batting cage or bowling.

Even walking a pet in your neighborhood each day is a great way to get into a regular exercise routine.  

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child's total screen time for TV or computers should be no more than two hours each day.  

If you work outside the home, make sure your child care provider provides your child well-balance meals and snacks, and offers your kid active play time.

You should also try to be actively involved in the parent-teacher association to ensure your child's school has physical education and after-school sports programs.

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