Health Watch -- Preventing Childhood Obesity

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Obesity has become a major health problem in the United States, and it’s a problem that’s striking earlier and earlier as more children are obese. Parents can help protect their children from obesity by encouraging good health habits. But parents also may have to change a few of their own habits.

For example, when you go out with your preschooler, do you bring along a stroller? Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say it’s best for your child if you don’t. Leave the stroller behind and let your child walk. 

Dr. Joel Steinberg, a UT Southwestern pediatrician who works closely with obese children, says that using strollers after the child is fully capable of walking encourages a sedentary lifestyle that could lead to obesity later in life. By encouraging your children to walk, you’re helping them learn to be active. 

By the age of 3, a child doesn’t really need a stroller, anyway. At this stage, the stroller is more for the parent’s convenience than the child’s, for children this age can generally walk for as long as an adult can. They just can’t walk as rapidly as an adult. Adults usually run out of energy long before children do. You just have to be patient with their shorter legs. 

Encouraging your children to be active – whether it’s walking instead of riding in a stroller or playing outside instead of watching television – helps provide a good foundation for the active lifestyle that prevents obesity.