Childhood Inactivity Bad Omen

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  3/19/2005 1:16:50 AM

Active children are more likely to become active adults. As many children grow into adolescence, however, their physical activity levels decline, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Insufficient physical activity increases the risk of being overweight or obese and for having many related chronic diseases. On the other hand, the LSU AgCenter nutritionist points out that regular physical activity is linked with immediate and long-term health benefits, including weight control, lower blood pressure, improved cardiorespiratory function and enhanced psychological well-being.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that although most of children ages 9–13 participate in some level of free-time physical activity, increased rates of participation in both free-time and organized physical activities are needed. This was especially true for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children.

The study showed that 61.5 percent of children ages 9–13 do not participate in any organized physical activity during their nonschool hours, and 22.6 percent do not engage in any freetime physical activity. Participation in both after-school and weekend physical activities was included. Participation in an organized physical activity was defined as participation in a physical activity with an organized group that has a coach, instructor or leader.

The three organized physical activities engaged in most often by children age 9–13 were baseball/softball, soccer and basketball. Dance was also mentioned as an organized activity. The children reported that their most frequent activities were riding bicycles and playing basketball. Other activities engaged in frequently during free time were bicycling, walking, active games and football.

The CDC survey reached children and their parents of about 3,600 households nationwide. The findings are the first nationally representative information about levels and types of physical activity among children ages 9–13.

Parents reported barriers to their children’s participation in physical activities including transportation problems, lack of opportunities to participate in physical activities in their areas, expense, parents’ lack of time and concerns about neighborhood safety.

Reames says that the CDC continues to focus on increasing freetime physical activity through the "VERB, It’s What You Do Campaign." This is a five-year effort to promote physical activity. The nutritionist also suggests contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about healthy lifestyles for children.

Please visit the Food and Health section of the LSU AgCenter website for additional information.

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