New Delhi, February 16, 2021: A recent study conducted by the University at Buffalo highlights the negative impact that pandemic-induced lockdown had on health, especially among children. The study points out that bad diet, lesser physical activity, lack of mental engagement and disturbed sleep patterns have said to be a leading cause of obesity among children.
New Delhi-based Ahuja family couldn’t agree more with this study. It’s been a tough time for their six-year-old child, Nivriti, who had been cooped inside her home ever since the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 22, 2020. The school had been shut and her wary parents had put all outdoor activities on hold fearing that any exposure might increase their chances of contracting COVID-19 infection. Ahuja had been on the heavier side and her parents feared that inactivity may only aggravate the condition. And their worst fears came true.
The six-year-old girl is not alone. Obesity among children in India is now an epidemic. Around 14.4 million children in India are obese, making us the second country load with obese children after China. Now with the lockdown, this number is expected to grow even further. Unfortunately, the excess weight gained during this lockdown may not be easily reversible and might contribute to obesity during adulthood, if healthy behaviours are not re-established soon.
The obesity concern was looming large for children like her as much it is a worrisome situation for adults. “It is a matter of great concern for children. The school eco-system offers a structure and a disciplined and routine life. The child follows a proper schedule around mealtimes, study time, physical activities, which helps regulate sleep time. These factors when impaired contributes to an increase in the associated risk of obesity,” says Dr Sharad Sharma, Consultant Robotic, Laparoscopic GI & Bariatric Surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital.
Dr Sharma suggests parents clear the junk food out of the snack pantry and make cooking meals together a part of their family’s routine. “Get rid of fizzy drinks and other beverages with high calories. If your kid will have free access to the kitchen all day, stock it with carrots and apples. Make better choices for yourself and your children. Kids are visual learners; if you eat a cake while telling your kids to eat their veggies, it’s not the example they want to follow,” he suggests.
Additionally, parents could also let their kids do chores that help them stay active, such as mopping the floor, watering the plants, dusting, hanging clothes on the line, folding dried clothes, caring for pets, etc. “Assign age-appropriate tasks every day to keep them busy. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Encourage kids to talk about their feelings of stress and pencil in screen-free family time,” he adds.
Alongside, it would help if you also kept a keen eye to ensure that:
A healthy diet and ample physical and mental activity can help your child stay fit during this time. These simple measures will go beyond the pandemic to inculcate a healthy culture among children. Remember, healthy children, lead to healthy adults!