GEORGIA, (WRBL) – Research shows childhood obesity rates rising over the last few decades, leaving long-lasting effects among generations. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, childhood obesity has more than tripled in recent decades, rising from 5% in 1978 to 18.5% in 2016.

Abbigale Clifford, the Chronic Disease Prevention Manager at District 4 Public Health, credits the increase to inadequate amounts of physical activity, diet deficiencies, and large amounts of stress. 

“I think that the quality of life goes down the more that people are just sitting all day. Overall, we are looking at a decrease in the quality of life if kids are faced with disease later in life,” said Clifford. 

According to Clifford, obese children suffer from both physical and social consequences as a result of their weight. They are often bullied in social settings and their mental health is affected. Obese adults can suffer from the same consequences but are also at risk for several health complications. 

She said physical activity outside of the home is at an all-time low among young children. However, parents can encourage different behaviors like promoting healthy sleep cycles to prevent their child from developing obesity. 

Locally, the YMCA of Metropolitan Columbus, Ga. is doing what they can to lower the childhood obesity numbers and providing exercise resources in the community. 

Antonio Mathis is the Sports Director of the YMCA of Metropolitan Columbus, Ga, He said the organization offers coed sports like basketball, cheerleading and swimming all year long. 

“I’ve noticed a slight increase with our programs. Kids are trying to get out and participate more with our basketball and soccer programs,” said Mathis. 

Mathis believes a major incentive parents have to enroll their children in the YMCA sports are the life skills that are taught based on the core values of the organization. Children are taught caring, honesty, respect and responsibility as they also participate in sports.

Along with the sports that are offered year-round, the YMCA also hosts summer camps for children every year where they play sports and stay active over summer vacation.