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Physical Activity in Young People

With the end of summer (it’s still hot) and the start of the school year our attention turns back to children and the return to school or home school activities. Many school programs are limiting the physical activity education provided due to many reasons. Budget cuts, time restraints, lack of teachers are some of the reasons provided but this is could be causing major health problems.

At no time in our history have we had so much information available on the benefits of physical activity to people of all ages including youth. Sedentary living is a prime risk factor for the development of heart disease rather than a secondary factor.

High school students are vastly more active than adults. Only 10 to 12% of US adults regularly participate in vigorous activity. 64% of high school students regularly participate. One-Third of students fail to meet physical activity standards. 50% do not meet the standards for stretching and strengthening. Fewer girls than boys meet the standard. From 9th to 12th grade physical activity levels decrease 10% in boys and 23% in girls.

The main concern is the fact that with increasing years of age, activity levels tend to decline from early childhood on. The good news is that most children are active. The bad news is that as time goes on they become more sedentary. Children need to focus on building all parts of health related physical fitness and this takes time. This includes: cardiovascular fitness, strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Normal activities of daily living such as walking or riding their bikes to school, working in the yard, and household chores are encouraged. Long periods of inactivity are discouraged in children. This may primarily be a result of learned behavior.

Inactive children usually become inactive teenagers and adults. Frequent periods of activity during the day, which during the school year include recess and physical education classes are recommended.

We need to implement programs that promote lifelong physical activity. The risk factors with sedentary lifestyle that include, obesity, poor cardiovascular health, associated behavior that accompanies sedentary lifestyle (smoking, drinking, low self esteem, inactivity) leads to health status that puts them at risk for early disability.

Keep your children active. Set an example and be active with them. Support school physical education classes and after school sport activities. Physical activity and education is an essential component of a successful educational process and life.

 

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