Couch Potato Generation - Kids Need More Exercise
August 21, 2012

Parents Concerned Most About Children’s Lack Of Exercise

Video: Couch Potato Syndrome Is A Big Health Problem For Kids

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Playing video games while sitting for hour upon hour. Watching television without getting up for exercises breaks. These are just a few examples related to “couch potato syndrome.” Interesting enough, a recent survey by the University of Michigan (U-M) Health System recently found that “not enough exercise” is listed as the top health concern for children. Obesity is a close second on the U-M National Poll on Children´s Health annual top 10 list.

The poll was given to a nationwide sample of adults who identified the top 10 biggest health concerns for kids in the U.S. The concern, “not enough exercise,” was the top of the list for the first time, with 39 percent noting its negative consequences. Another 38 percent stated childhood obesity was a major issue, with smoking and tobacco use as the third most important concern with 34 percent.

"Childhood obesity remains a top concern, and adults know it is certainly linked to lack of exercise," noted Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, in a prepared statement. "The strong perception that lack of exercise is a threat to children's health may reflect effective recent public health messages from programs such as First Lady Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' campaign.”

The study´s authors believe that, if the lack of exercise was combated, there could be positive results for local communities.

"But lack of exercise offers many more benefits other than weight loss or preventing obesity — such as better attention and learning in school and improved sense of well-being," continued Davis, who also serves as an associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, in the statement.

Besides highlighting the lack of exercise and the growing issue of obesity, the poll also detailed other parental concerns such as drug abuse, bullying, stress, alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, internet safety, as well as child abuse and neglect.

"The strong connection of many of the top 10 child health concerns to health behaviors among children and adolescents underscores the importance of public programs and communication initiatives – for example, those designed to prevent drug abuse, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy," commented Davis in the statement.

Lastly, the results demonstrated the differences of parental concerns based on race and ethnicity. For example, Hispanic adults were most likely to rank child obesity first, followed by not enough exercise. They also rated smoking and tobacco use as a more pressing concern than drug abuse. On the other hand, black adults were very concerned about smoking and tobacco use, ranking it the most often. They were also distressed about racial inequality, listed as the seventh most important concern, and gun-related injuries, listed as the ninth most important concern.

"Child health varies across communities, and these results emphasize a need for local programs that respect and address community-specific health priorities for youth," concluded David in the statement.

For parents who are concerned about their children, the investigators also provide a number of online resources. To learn more about exercise and eating healthy, family members can look into the “Let´s Move” campaign as well as tools focused on healthy family nutrition.

The full report "C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health" is available here.