This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by J. G. Hunter, HGIC Information Specialist, and K. L. Cason, Professor, State EFNEP Coordinator, Clemson University. (New 04/06.)
The rate of childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, doubling over the past 30 years. Obesity and cardiovascular disease risks are directly related. Because of obesity, we now have a generation of people who may not outlive their parents.*
Approximately one out of eight high school students in South Carolina is overweight.** An overweight adolescent has a 70% chance of becoming an overweight or obese adult. Obese children may also experience exclusion from social groups and low self-esteem.
Almost half of adolescents in South Carolina do not meet the minimum recommendations for adequate physical activity.** Physical activity and healthy eating are keys to preventing and treating obesity. Sedentary activities such as watching TV, playing video games and computer use have replaced good old fashioned outdoor playing—riding bikes, jumping rope, playing ball and skating. Inactivity, along with more snacking on high calorie foods has led to the epidemic of childhood obesity.
*The Obesity Epidemic
**Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS), 1999
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and teens be physically active for at least 60 minutes on most days, if not every day. Combined with eating right, this level of physical activity can help them stay at a healthy weight and prevent gradual weight gain over time.
It’s the total amount of physical activity per day that matters. The recommended 60 minutes can be done all at once or broken up into shorter sessions, such as 15-minute intervals.
All kids benefit from regular physical activity, regardless of their ability, shape and size. There should be a good balance of activities that stretch, strengthen, and give the heart a workout.
Physical activity can be fun! Kids should choose activities that they enjoy. An activity does not have to be strenuous to be helpful. Kids will have more energy, plus they can enjoy being with other people while they are active. How great is that?
Kids can be creative and find a variety of ways to stay active. These three types of physical activities should be combined:
Weight-Bearing & Strength Building: Kids need to get up and move! This can be done through walking, wiggling, dancing, riding a bike, climbing the stairs. Kids should just keep moving whenever they can. Regular weight-bearing exercise (e.g. walking, jogging), along with a calcium-rich diet, helps to develop and maintain strong healthy bones.
Aerobic: Kids should do more intense activities that warm them up and make them glow! They can swim, run, play volleyball and basketball, roller blade, or rope climb. These are a few activities that give kids an aerobic workout and strengthen their heart and lungs.
Balance & Stretching: Spending more time on strengthening and stretching activities is important for kids. They can touch their toes, do sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, martial arts and dance. These keep their muscles firm and their body flexible, which reduces risk of injury.
Kids do not need to change overnight how they exercise and what they eat. They can just start with one new, good change, and add another one every day or so. Kids should begin physical activity slowly, then gradually build to higher levels. This reduces the risk of injury and the feeling of defeat from setting unrealistic goals.
Kids should move more and have fun while they move. They need to aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day, or most days.
The new MyPyramid for Kids tells kids ages 6-11 to be physically active every day, or most days, and to make healthy food choices. The girl climbing the stairs is a reminder to do something active every day, like running, walking the dog, playing, swimming, biking, or climbing lots of stairs. For more information, go to http://www.mypyramid.gov/kids/
Children who have positive experiences with physical activity at a young age are more likely to be regularly active throughout life. In general, children can start participating in team sports at age six, because they begin to understand teamwork at this age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children naturally start to do things in groups about eight to 10 years of age.
Like younger children, teens should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day, or most days. Today’s teens are busy “24/7” with school, after-school activities and perhaps a job. However, they do not always lead an active lifestyle just because they have a busy schedule.
When kids hit the teen years, physical activity drops dramatically. Almost half of young people aged 12-21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis, and about 14% report no recent physical activity. As adolescents get older, they become less active. Females are less physically active than males, and black females are less active than white females.
Anything that gets their bodies moving counts! Teens should choose an activity that interests them—bicycling, in-line skating, swimming, family walks after dinner (also a sharing time), karate, kick-boxing, dancing, or hiking.
High school students’ enrollment in daily physical education classes dropped from 42% in 1991 to 28% in 2003. Well designed school-based interventions have been effective in increasing physical activity in PE classes. Social support from family and friends has a positive impact, also.
By getting involved in an athletic program, teens can burn energy, meet new friends, and learn teamwork and leadership skills. Regular physical activity improves strength, builds lean muscle, and decreases body fat. In addition, it can build stronger bones to last a lifetime.
Every day, on average, eight to 18-year-olds spend:
Two-thirds of young people have a TV, as well as a game player, in their bedroom. Nearly one-third have a computer in their bedroom. They spend about 1½ more hours a day watching TV than kids without a set in their room.
Limit TV Time: The amount of time spent watching TV is the most powerful behavioral predictor of obesity. The risk of obesity increases by 25% for every two hours of TV viewed daily.
As a family, make an agreement to limit TV/DVD/video watching or gaming to two hours or less per day. The TV should be removed from a child’s bedroom. Turn off Saturday morning cartoons and go bicycling to the park or the library. Play with a ball instead of a video game. Play outside with the dog for 20 or 30 minutes in the afternoons.
TV-Turnoff Week: Millions of people all over the world have participated in TV-Turnoff Week since this observance began in 1995. Turning off the television is a chance to think, read, create, connect with our families and get involved in our communities. To learn more, visit TV Turnoff Network: www.turnoffyourtv.com/turnoffweek/TV.turnoff.week.html
TV Time Activities: If you do watch TV, make that time more active and figure out ways to get your heart pumping. Exercise to a favorite tape or DVD. Children and parents can have a contest to see who can do the most push-ups or jumping jacks during a commercial break.
To encourage your children to be more physically active:
Always be alert to any extreme behaviors from your child—excessive dieting, over-exercising, or an unusually sedentary lifestyle at the computer or in front of the TV.
Communities play an important role in children’s physical activity, also. They can support more activity among youth and families by:
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