Obesity rates drop sharply for 2- to 5-year-olds: Study

Michelle Obama proposes new limits on food/beverage advertising in schools

Jacque Wilson | 2/26/2014, 6 a.m.
Obesity rates of children ages 2 to 5 years old have decreased significantly over the past decade, according to a ...
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a "Let's Move!" and "Sesame Street" public service announcement taping with Big Bird in the White House Kitchen, Feb. 13, 2013 Lawrence Jackson/The White House

— The first lady also tackled nutrition and physical education in childcare facilities around the country. Let's Move! offers guidelines for childcare providers: one to two hours of physical activity a day; limited screen time; more fruits and vegetables at meals served family-style when possible; no fried foods and no sugary drinks.

"Food manufacturers have pledged to cut 1.5 trillion calories from the products they sell. Local grocers and national chains such as Walgreens and SuperValu are building new supermarkets and expanding existing stores to sell fresh food in 1,500 underserved communities," Obama wrote in an op-ed for CNN in 2012.

"Restaurants are transforming their kids' menus, packing them with healthier options. Mayors are planting gardens and refurbishing parks. Congregations are sponsoring summer nutrition programs for kids and exercise ministries for families."

Even Disney and the Department of Defense are jumping on board.

In January 2012, the USDA issued its new rules for school meals, which are being phased in over a three-year period. Cafeterias must offer fruits and vegetables at every meal, reduce sodium and some types of fat and keep to calorie minimums and maximums. The government agency followed up six months later with new rules for snack foods. The regulations set limits for fat, salt and sugar sold in school vending machines and snack bars.

The USDA has faced opposition over the new rules -- from student athletes who say they're not getting enough calories to administrators who say kids just aren't buying the healthier options.

Which raises the question: With all these new guidelines and regulations, are kids really getting any healthier?

It's a difficult question to answer, as the most comprehensive data collections about obesity are still a few years behind. But there have been signs of progress.

Steven Hanus, a elementary physical education teacher in the Chicago suburbs, says he's noticed a change in his students -- and their parents -- over the past five years.

Overall, the kids are in better shape, he says. Parents are asking Hanus more questions as well, about how to keep their kids moving at home. And he's received strong support from administrators in his quest to find new ways to interest students in fitness. Recently, his first-graders were given pedometers for the first time.

"From our top level down, the initiative to keep kids moving and active has definitely been a big part of the district," Hanus says. "It's made us all a little more aware of how active we are."

Another study published in August 2013 that analyzed data from preschool children in low-income families showed a small but significant decline in the group's obesity rates between 2008 and 2011.

"It's a bright spot for our nation's young kids, but the fight is very far from over," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at the time.

Obama agrees.

"While childhood obesity rates are beginning to fall, we still have a long way to go before we solve this problem once and for all," the first lady said Tuesday. "We can't slow down and we can't turn back now."

Let's Move! recommends children engage in physical activity for a total of 60 minutes every day, and adults should move for 30 minutes daily.

Show the White House how you move on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine using the hashtag #LetsMove.

CNN's Kevin Liptak, Madison Park and William Hudson contributed to this story.


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