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Wednesday, 12 February 2014 12:32

Physical Activity Guidelines - American Youth Lag Behind

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The US department of Health and Human Resources in its 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' (2008) recommended kids aged 12-15 years must have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. The recommendations were adopted by both Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

About 75% of American youth do not meet this recommendation! What a depressing statistics indeed. According to data released by t CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, just 24.8 percent of American youths between the ages of 12 and 15 participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day. "We hope to see these numbers improve," says Tala Fakhouri, a CDC epidemiologist and author of the new report detailing the findings. Overall, about 31 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls met the 60-minute benchmark three or fewer days per week in 2012. Nearly 8 percent of boys and girls total did not meet that requirement on any day of the week.

A lack of physical activity can lead to obesity, which has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the last three decades. In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, according to the CDC. Following WHO's recognition of obesity as one of the major public health issues of 21st century, obesity is one of the most talked about topic in electronic and print media. But it is a pity that all that stuff highlights only the cosmetic aspect of obesity and little is said about the dreadful medical consequences of obesity. Long-term consequences of obesity brought on by physical inactivity can be far-reaching and can include a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, asthma and arthritis, among other things.

Parents' contribution could be invaluable in achieving the desired goals of physical activity for children. "A family can take a long walk after dinner; you can take your dog for a walk. You can dance, you can play basketball," Fakhouri says. "Any activity is going to be good activity." According to Jakhouri, there are small steps families can take to achieve these national physical activity guidelines. Parents are role models for the children. As far as physical activity, we salute to the older generation for they did very well when they were young. But they should not forget that when they have their kids grown up, they have double the responsibility: not only they have to keep them fit for the later years of their lives but they have to revitalize their children too. The reason why we are emphasizing more on parents because unfortunately the current generation of young people is falling far below the mark when it comes to physical activity. Conversely if the parents fail to set s good example, success cannot be expected in children, as First Lady Michelle Obama also observed during a keynote address in Washington, D.C.

"We as parents are our children's first and best role models, and this is particularly true when it comes to their health," she said, pointing to research that kids with one obese parent are more than twice as likely to become obese as adults. "We can't lie around on the couch eating French fries and candy bars, and expect our kids to eat carrots and run around the block. But too often, that's exactly what we're doing."

Today's kids can't keep up with their parents. An analysis of studies on millions of children around the world finds they don't run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were young. On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17. "We are currently facing the most sedentary generation of children in our history," says Sam Kass, a white house chef and head of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program said.

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