Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Across the Life Stages
Good nutrition, regular physical activity, and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight are cornerstones of health at every stage of life:
- Children and adolescents who eat a healthful diet are more likely to reach and maintain a healthy weight, achieve normal growth and development, and have strong immune systems.
- Children and adolescents who get regular physical activity have improved muscle development, bone health, and heart health.
- Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for developing diabetes and heart disease; they are also likely to stay overweight or obese into adulthood, placing them at increased risk for serious chronic diseases.
- Adults who eat a healthful diet and stay physically active can decrease their risk of a number of adult-onset health conditions and diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
- Regular physical activity can lower an adult’s risk of depression.
- Adults who maintain a healthy weight are less likely to die prematurely.
- Good nutrition helps pregnant women support the healthy development of their infants.
- Regular physical activity throughout pregnancy can help women control their weight, make labor more comfortable, and reduce their risk of postpartum depression.3
- Staying at a healthy body weight can help women reduce their risk of complications during pregnancy.
Determinants of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
A number of factors affect a person’s ability to eat a healthful diet, stay physically active, and achieve or maintain a healthy weight. The built environment has a critical impact on behaviors that influence health. For example, in many communities, there is nowhere to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, and no safe or appealing place to play or be active. These environmental factors are compounded by social and individual factors—gender, age, race and ethnicity, education level, socioeconomic status, and disability status—that influence nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. Addressing these factors is critically important to improving the nutrition and activity levels of all Americans; only then will progress be made against the Nation’s obesity epidemic and its cascading impact on health.
3Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Pregnancy: Staying Healthy and Safe. Washington, DC: 2010. Available from http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/staying-healthy-safe.cfm#b
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