American kids need more exercise

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Kids today are as crazy about sports as they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, most of their sports are played from the living room couch, rather than the gridiron or baseball diamond.

One in four American children is overweight, and an estimated 25 percent gets 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day.

While only five percent of children ages 12-18 was considered overweight in 1980, 15.5 percent now weigh in as too heavy.

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Potentially lifelong health problems can develop in an overweight child.

Children who are overweight are nine times more likely to experience hypertension, a persistently elevated blood pressure.

Glucose intolerance, a precursor of diabetes, is characterized by increased thickness and pigmentation of the skin between folds.

Hepatic steatosis, the fatty degeneration of the liver, has a high percentage in overweight children.

Overweightness in children has been linked to social discrimination, a negative self-image that can last into adulthood, parental neglect, and behavioral and learning problems.

Children learn by example. Ergo, the more active parents are, the more active their children will be. Here are some ideas to knock the entire family into shape:

nCreate opportunities to participation in sports. Whether it be walking or bicycling around town, joining a local YMCA, or signing up for a recreational league soccer team, show children that it’s more enjoyable to play sports from the field.

nSet limits on television. Nothing stifles the urge to have fun outside than a few minutes of afternoon cartoons.

nTry new ways to incorporate exercise into your normal routines. Walk home from school rather than taking the bus. Use stairs instead of an elevator. Walk around your house while chatting on a cordless phone.

nAnimals can offer a fine opportunity for a bit of exercise. Make walking the dog a family event.

nNutrition is also important when battling weight problems. A child’s fat intake should be limited to 30 percent of his or her total calories. Fiber, found in fruit, beans, an vegetables, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Fiber also supplies energy-rich carbohydrates, an essential fuel for healthy bodies.

A recent study found that one in four adolescent girls are iron deficient. Iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc are extremely important for the development of strong bones.