Lighten up, kids! And parents will too, thanks to promising news regarding childhood obesity rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the past 30 years, child obesity rates have tripled; the number of obese children in the U.S. ages 6 to 11 was at 7 percent in 1980, rising to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Sobering numbers to say the least. With obesity at a young age contributing to such health problems as Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis, this is a hopeful turnaround.

Obesity prevention programs are, in part, to thank for this changing tide, though there is still much work to be done. Even at the preschool age, children should be encouraged to exercise with their family for 30 minutes a day and make healthy eating choices.

The drop in obesity rates was evident in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, but also in more rural settings, like Anchorage, Alaska, and the state of Mississippi. Whether it's the removal of sugary drinks from school vending machines or unplugging the deep fryer in the cafeteria, small changes are making a big - and healthy - difference. The non-profit Food Trust is working with about 640 corner stores throughout the nation to provide healthier food options for kids grabbing after-school snacks.

The prevalence of healthy food choices and an uptick in exercise will help ensure that the needle continues to fall when measuring childhood obesity. Remember, healthy habits begin at home, so guide your child toward nutritional choices and get outside to play as much as possible.

About the Author:

Dorothy Hastings is the Director of First School, which are three preschool and child care centers located throughout Southern California. First School provides a hands-on approach to preschool education and child care programs that emphasizes all around child development. In addition to their intuitive academic approach, First School also focuses on developing a child's social skills and self-confidence, which is made possible in their intimate learning atmosphere.

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