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Childhood obesity rates rise during COVID pandemic

2 On Your Side spoke with the medical director of the Healthy Weigh Clinic at Oishei Children's Hospital about how parents can get their kids back on track.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new study about childhood obesity shows how the COVID pandemic has impacted children's health across the United States.

The study just released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found about 1 in 6 people ages 10 to 17-year-olds in the United States has obesity.  

One study released last month by the CDC looked at the BMI of more than 432,000 kids ages 2 to 19 both before and during the pandemic. It found the rate of BMI increase approximately doubled.

So to get some insight on how parents can try to make some healthier choices to get back on track, 2 On Your Side talked with a doctor from Oishei Children's Hospital.

"You should not be going for fancy diets. What children, and youth, and we human beings all respond to best is structured life. Eating your meals at the right time. Going to bed at the right time. Those are small things that we've all been told to do, but somehow we've forgotten about it. That is probably the key aspect of making a healthy lifestyle," Dr. Indrajit Majumdar said. 

Dr. Majumdar says kids' weight changed dramatically by going to bed at different times and eating at different times during the pandemic.

"It sounds like cliché, but it is clear that during the one year of pandemic when children were not doing that, they were going to bed at unusual times, staying up the whole night on social media, or playing video games and sleeping in during the day, the weight changed dramatically," Dr. Majumdar said.

"There were higher incidence of all obesity associated complications that resulted. So just switching back to the old ways of structured lifestyle can be an excellent thing that parents can do and they can focus by telling kids, hey, don't skip your meals."

He also says don't spoil your meals with snacks that way you're eating at structured times.

Dr. Majumdar says he's very confident that kids will start getting healthier. They've already started seeing improvement in children at Oishei.

Their BMI has gotten better, and they're telling him they're eating at the same time every day more often and they have earlier bed times because they have to get up to go to school. He says getting breakfast and lunch at school has been good for their overall health.

He says any activity counts; going up and down stairs counts. He mentioned a daily 10,000 step goal. But focusing on structure is key, especially when it comes to meals and sleep. Bad sleep hygiene can cause all sorts of health problems.

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