April 14, 2011

Many Young Americans Do Not Get Enough Exercise

According to a new study, many American youngsters are not getting enough physical activity and parents are failing to make their children's health a priority.

The YMCA surveyed over 1,600 American parents with children between the ages of 5 and 10. Their results showed that 58 percent of children spend less than four days a week playing outside because parents find it more convenient for them to spend time in front of a television or computer.

"There are many small things that make it very difficult for families to get an hour of physical activity a day," Dr. Matt Longjohn, the YMCA's US Director of Chronic Disease Prevention, said in a statement to Reuters. "Among the factors you could blame are technology, time and money."

Over half of parents said that the need to save money in economically stressed times had forced them to cut back on extracurricular activities for their children.

"Getting 60 minutes of exercise doesn't have to just come from sports or things that cost money," Longjohn said in a statement. "It could be taking a walk, or choosing to walk up stairs instead of taking an elevator, for example. It doesn't have to be organized."

He said that parents should not have to look for a one-hour chunk of time.

"It can be smaller opportunities, minutes that can add up to preventing a disease," he said.

The study found that technological innovations are distracting children from playing, although 52 percent of parents said they spend time with their children on things like video games.

Longjohn suggested that parents find ways to limit time children spend on sedentary activities like watching television.

"Parents need to get creative on setting limits on screen time," he said. "That means putting their family into environments that create those opportunities for physical activity."

According to Longjohn, despite the problems highlighted by the study, there is still reason to be optimistic about children's health.

"National initiatives such as the First Lady's campaign have brought awareness to this effort and community efforts have started to change the conversations in living rooms," he said.

"If we're vigilant as a country to keep our eyes on the ball here and continue to support health and incorporate healthy routines, there is no reason not to be optimistic."


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