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Pediatric physiologist speaks on "pandemic colliding" when it comes to obesity and COVID

Tennessee is ranked fourth for obesity in children ages 10-17 years old.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Pandemics colliding. That’s how the health community is describing COVID-19 cases and obesity. It’s particularly troubling in children, so a Tennessee congressman is aiming to tackle the issue with legislation. 

Clinical exercise physiologist Webb Smith said for many pediatric COVID patients, obesity was a factor. 

“A lot of the behaviors that led to high levels of obesity, in the beginning, are made worse by being stuck at home, not able to access school where they can get good quality food, PE and general activity at school is often a source for a lot of a lot of the activity that kids get,” said Webb who works with children at Methodist LeBonheur’s pediatric obesity program.

Tennessee is ranked fourth for obesity in children ages 10-17 years old, according to The State of Childhood Obesity.  

Congressman Steve Cohen is working to combat it with the Reducing Obesity in Youth Act, which would provide grants to encourage physical activity and early nutrition education. 

“His initiative, where they're targeting between zero and five years old, that's an area that that is a very important time,” said Webb. “Like, that's when kids are developing a lot of their behaviors and habits.”

Webb explained getting off on the right foot with fitness and nutrition sets kids up for better nutritional success as adults. 

So what can parents do to help?

“So 60 minutes of moderate activity,” advised Webb. “That's an important milestone. Limiting screen time is an important one, right because it's not just screen time while we're, you know, engaged with screens, we tend to do things like mindless eating.”

Instead teaching kids to be mindful of what they’re consuming every day helps. 

“We have a tendency to not approach kids with some of these bigger, sweeping mindfulness things, because like oh they’re kids. But I mean, seven, eight years old, they're able to master these things.”

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