Sports and regular physical activities not only serve as fun-time for children and teens, but more importantly, it improves their overall health and wellness status while promoting a healthy lifestyle which they can carry on into their adulthood years.
Exercise and Health Education Cut Kids' Risk of Heart Disease
According to recent findings, vigorous exercise and health education classes in the adolescents can cut their blood cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of developing heart disease later in life.
This comes from a study which is part of the larger continuing Cardiovascular Health in Children study, a unique effort in North Carolina to learn about improving children's - and later adults' - heart and lung health. This study used 600 middle-school students, ages 11 to 14, from five rural North Carolina schools in three counties.
According to one of the researchers, "I don't think most parents realize how little actual physical activity their children get at school nowadays. Most middle-aged and older people in this country were far more active when they were children than kids are now."
In this study, subjects were divided into four groups. During the 1995-96 school year they received both physical activity and classroom training, either one or the other intervention, or neither. Physical activity was vigorous and sustained three times a week but did not require special sports skills. Classroom teaching focused on nutrition, fitness, not smoking, blood pressure and other topics.
Researchers measured fat levels in the blood of children before and after completing the program. Among middle-schoolers in the combined group, total cholesterol dropped an average of 10.6 milligrams per deciliter and LDL dropped 8.7 milligrams per deciliter.
"We conclude that the combination of both a knowledge and attitude program and a physical activity program was highly effective in improving lipid [fat in the blood] profiles in this group of adolescents, Our work is important because the few studies that have been done before on this looked at younger children and none has tested older children the way we did."
- American Heart Association Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico - March 19, 1998.
Experts Urge Children Need More Exercise
New guidelines from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommend that children be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day - and longer if possible.
According to the NASPE, a nonprofit organization for fitness and physical activity professionals, "extended periods of inactivity are not appropriate for normal, healthy children... inactive children and youth are much more likely to be sedentary as adults than children and youth who are active."
The NASPE also stated, "children and youth who have active parents and family members and who do physical activities with them are more likely to be active than those who are not active with family members... 'children' develop skills through involvement in physical activity... only through devoting time to these skills will they become a regular part of a healthy lifestyle."
Other recommendations of the NASPE include:
- schools need to make time for physical activity in a child's day.
- youngsters should be exposed to a variety of activities.
- continue to encourage motor skill development.
- some of a child's physical activity each day "should be in periods lasting 10 to 15 minutes or more and include moderate to vigorous activity."
- activities that can be done throughout a lifetime should be encouraged.
- National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) in Reston, Virginia.
Results of Strength Training in Obese Prepubertal Girls
A group of researchers set out to determine the effects of a school-based, low-volume strength training program on energy expenditure, strength, and physical fitness in obese prepubertal girls.
The researchers designed a longitudinal, 5-month strength training exercise program in which 11 healthy, obese girls aged 7-10 years participated.
The girls increased their upper and lower extremity strength, on average, by 20%. However, similar results were not noted when energy expenditure was evaluated.
The researchers concluded, "This long-term, school-based, low-volume strength training program favorably increases strength in obese prepubertal girls but does not increase their daily energy expenditure."
- Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 7, pp. 1130-1136, 1998.