Research Supports First Lady's Childhood Obesity Initiative
First Lady Michelle Obama announced yesterday an initiative to reverse rising levels of childhood obesity - and scientific research from the American College of Sports Medicine backs up the strategies related to physical activity in her "Let's Move" campaign.
Multiple studies published in ACSM's official scientific journal confirm that higher levels of activity - important in combating obesity - have positive effects for children beyond just weight management.
Perhaps the most encouraging research finds that the most active kids also fare the best in school. In one study of more than 200 middle-schoolers, students who participated in vigorous physical activity after school earned better grades on their report cards.
"Kids' bodies aren't made for sitting in front of the television for hours a day," said James Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM, President of ACSM. "They're supposed to be out playing, running, jumping. Research confirms that, and parents should take steps to increase their kids' activity levels - it'll be great for them in the long run, too, to establish physical activity habits at a young age."
A similar study showed that in-classroom activity was helpful in keeping youngsters on task, improving their behavior by up to 20 percent.
Another ACSM study suggests a sedentary lifestyle can mean more emotional and behavioral problems for adolescents. More than 7,000 boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 16 participated in a survey, reporting their levels of physical activity and responding to questions about their mental and emotional states. Boys who reported less than one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week had more symptoms identified by researchers as anxious/depressed and withdrawn/depressed, as well as cognitive problems. Inactive girls had similar problems, and also more commonly reported somatic complaints and rule-breaking behaviors. Boys and girls have similar issues with social and attention problems when compared to their physically active peers.
And, of course, kids' physical health is improved by regular exercise as well. ACSM research on asthmatic children showed aerobic training to be effective in improving cardiopulmonary fitness and decreasing daily use of inhaled steroids.
ACSM commends the First Lady's office on recognizing every child in her healthy-kids initiative, with special focus on including those with disabilities. ACSM helped form the Inclusive Fitness Coalition and partners with the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.
American College of Sports Medicine
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