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While this pandemic has hit hard in lots of ways, something a lot of people were not thinking about is making headlines as of late. If you have kids, keeping them active during this pandemic might have been harder than you thought and there could be issues stemming from them not being as active as they should be.

According to CNN COVID-19’s pandemic has ‘worsened an already dire childhood obesity epidemic.’ Over the past few months, doctors have noticed that kids have put on a lot of weight as a result of being stuck at home during this pandemic. While not all kids are facing this, those who are less active may have put on some weight whether you’ve realized it or not. 

CNN reported as follows on this topic:

In a year filled with so much tragedy and suffering, it would be easy to dismiss a few extra pounds in a child or to think of weight gain as a problem to be solved once the pandemic recedes. But the weight gain we are seeing in kids is neither trivial nor can it wait.

The specifics leading to weight gain vary. Sometimes it’s Dad, who recently took over the cooking and maybe overfeeding the kids; other times it’s Grandma, who has been spoiling them now that they’re home; for still others, favorite sports are no longer an option, or they’ve stopped going outside altogether.

Through the many stories we hear in our practices, one fact remains: The pandemic created the perfect conditions for kids to gain weight, and they have.

What we are seeing in our offices – which serve mainly Black and Brown children – was predictable. As a result of what became an unnecessarily prolonged crisis, countless kids in this country have been deprived of the nutrition and opportunity for physical activity they previously received in school.

The loss of structured in-person learning has, in turn, disrupted other aspects of children’s lives – what was previously an 8 p.m. bedtime on a school night became 9 p.m. or later, until there was no bedtime. As parents juggled working from home while overseeing online learning, mealtimes changed, portion sizes became bigger, and snacks became more common. 

The changes in every home have happened against a backdrop of record unemployment and skyrocketing food insecurity. In our practices, we’ve seen food budgets gradually tighten and families turn to cheaper, higher-calorie, more processed foods in an attempt to feed their kids.

There has even been a study published on this topic in the journal Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection under the title ‘When Pandemics Collide: The Impact of COVID-19 on Childhood Obesity.’ This study goes over the way this pandemic has affected children on this level, and it’s quite informative.

The abstract of this study goes as follows:

Obesity and COVID-19 are pandemics that negatively affect the health and well-being of children. The disease of childhood obesity has risen to pandemic levels in United States (U.S.) youth with the fastest rise seen in severe obesity (Skinner, Ravanbakht, Skelton, Perrin, & Armstrong, 2018). COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease in humans causing significant rates of illness, hospitalization, and death. The World Health Organization (World Health Organization, 2020) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Obesity is identified as an independent risk factor for COVID-19 disease severity (Lighter et al., 2020). Children with obesity may experience a more severe COVID-19 trajectory, including the need for respiratory support (Zachariah et al., 2020).

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic evoked major lifestyle changes including stay-at-home orders and physical distancing. Schools closed and children lost the safety net of access to nutritious food, a safe place to be, and mandatory physical activity as well as their social networks and familiar routines. Potential consequences of being restricted to home, as addressed in this clinical report, threaten the health and well-being of children with obesity. This report will address the impact of COVID-19 on children with obesity, describe how stress exacerbates both conditions, and identify interventions to reduce the negative impact.

What do you think about all of this? Do you think that in time we will be able to bounce back from this and what do you think could be done to help children not gain so much during periods like these? When being active is harder and processed foods are easier, what options do we as parents have?