Children are becoming less physically active than they were in the past. Many
are staying indoors longer to watch TV and play videogames, and parents may
be less eager to have their children running around outside out of fear of
abduction or traffic accidents. As these trends have increased (and as diets
have become less healthy), there has been a dangerous rise of obesity in children
in recent years.
Childhood obesity should be taken very seriously -- many obese children develop
type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, sleep apnea, orthopedic
problems, and other conditions that can last into adulthood.
The remedy for obesity is a nutritious diet and at least 60 minutes of moderate
physical activity on most days of the week. Children may, however, need as
much as 2 hours of physical activity a day. Adolescents may need 1.5 hours
of physical activity a day.
Your child can jump, play basketball, participate in running games, bike,
or find any other way to be active and have fun. For the health of your child,
the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research makes the following suggestions
to help develop good physical activity habits.
- Encourage your child to participate in physical activities, including
- Encourage involvement in activities that can be enjoyed into adulthood
(walking, running, swimming, basketball, tennis, golf, dancing, and bicycle
- Plan physical activities with family or friends. Exercise is more fun
- Limit the time your child spends watching TV to less than 2 hours per
day. Encourage going out to the playground, park, gym, or swimming pool
- Physical activity should be fun. Don't make winning the only goal.
- Many communities and schools offer exercise or sports programs find
out what is available for your child.
- Created by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.
Remember, your children learn many of their habits from you. Try to set a
good example and give them plenty of encouragement. You will be helping to
give them a lifelong gift of good health.
The chances for heart disease may start to develop in children as early as
elementary school. Children who exercise at least 2 hours a day, however, have
a lower risk for heart disease than those who do not exercise. Adolescents
who exercise at least 1.5 hours a day have a lower risk for heart disease.
Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Prescribing exercise as preventive therapy. Cmaj. Mar
Andersen LB, Harro M, Sardinha LB, et al. Physical activity and clustered
cardiovascular risk in children: a cross-sectional study (The European Youth
Heart Study). Lancet. Jul 22 2006;368(9532):299-304.
Review Date: 3/12/2007
Reviewed By: Benjamin W. Van Voorhees, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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