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Childhood Obesity – a growing problem

Around the world, levels of childhood obesity have been rising dramatically over the last 20 years.

Latest statistics report that 26% of Australian children were considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity can have long-lasting health, social and economic effects. It is important to note that children who are obese, are more likely to continue being obese throughout their lifetime.

Obesity can cause many debilitating and chronic health conditions including

  • diabetes
  • early osteoarthritis
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • sleep apnoea
  • depression

Additionally, the combination of excess weight, poor diet and limited physical activity may cause vitamin deficiencies, low bone density, hormonal imbalances, abnormal stress on bone growth plates, and may affect posture, strength and balance in the growing skeleton.

The Effect of Obesity on children’s Feet

Children who are overweight or obese very often have painful, flat feet that fatigue easily and prevent them from walking long distances and participating in sports and exercise.
Obese children with flat feet often have noticeable difficulties with running sports (eg soccer, hockey, netball, athletics).
Running-based sport can prove to be difficult or awkward. Equally, it may be painful, unenjoyable and may more easily lead to injuries affecting the feet or legs.

Children with obesity often have difficulties with their coordination with some common symptoms including:

  • Clumsiness or tripping
  • Problems with the development of gross motor skills such as jumping, hopping and skipping
  • Difficulties with balance, or standing on one leg
  • Poor posture
  • Poor endurance

Obese children with poor foot posture are highly vulnerable to a vicious cycle of foot pain leading to inactivity, which then leads to further weight gain, placing further strain on their growing feet and legs.

Podiatrists play a vital role in assessing and treating children with obesity and associated foot, leg or knee pain. Treatment not only aims to alleviate painful symptoms but, most importantly, reduce the likelihood of the child developing early foot osteoarthritis and deformity.

If your child is overweight or obese, is not keen to participate in sport or physical activity and complains of foot or leg pain, a podiatry assessment by our experienced paediatric podiatrists is highly recommended.

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