MARSHAL COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) — Playing outside has taken a back seat to tablets, smartphones, and television in children’s lives after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

West Virginia ranks in the top five out of all fifty states for childhood and adult obesity, with a remarkable 21.9% of youth ages 10-17 being categorized as obese.  

Amanda Wade, Pediatric Physician’s Assistant at Reynolds Memorial Hospital, says that roughly 20-30 % of their pediatric population alone is obese by definition.

She says that normally once patients hit age 12, there is a very small chance they will slim down.

So, how can you prevent this?

“I do believe that it starts with the parents. You know, a three-year-old can’t go grocery shopping. They can’t bring anything into the house, so what they’re left with is what’s at home. The first step is to be role models for our kids and to try and bring good, healthy foods in, to have movement, to be outside, to turn the TV off, to cook with your kids, and teach them how to eat, how to move. That’s where it starts, because if we don’t fix that – if we’re not role models for our kids – our kids know nothing else than what they know.”

Amanda Wade – Pediatric Physician’s Assistant at Reynolds Memorial Hospital

Mental health plays an equal role in children’s physical health. 

Post-pandemic life has increased screen time in everyone’s lives and has even made its way into online learning in schools, making it nearly 24/7. 

“It’s scary to me. I’m seeing an increase in social anxiety disorder too, and I really think that has a lot to do with the fact that kids just text each other. They don’t talk anymore. They don’t go out socially. Even my own kids will say ‘I’m playing with my friends,’ but they’ll be on their virtual reality set.”

Amanda Wade – Pediatric Physician’s Assistant at Reynolds Memorial Hospital

As we are seeing an increase in a more normalized, sedentary lifestyle, it is important that you are fueling your children’s bodies incorrectly as compensation. 

Amanda also says that over-snacking has become a huge issue, and that portion sizes, as well as mindful grocery shopping are key. 

“A simple rule is just to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. All of the fresh fruits and vegetables, if you notice, the meats and cheeses and yogurts milks are all on the outside, whereas the inside of the grocery store is packaged and processed foods. That’s where your carbohydrates are going to be. That’s where your sugars are going to be.”

Amanda Wade – Pediatric Physician’s Assistant at Reynolds Memorial Hospital

Lastly, getting active is easy when it can be made fun. Think about how you used to play when you were younger and encourage your children to do the same. 

Activities such as hopscotch with chalk in the driveway, or even seeing who can run up and down the stairs the fastest are small suggestions that can make a big difference.