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Today's Children Need More Exercise
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The inactive lifestyles of many American adults are spreading to children, and as with adults, as it spreads, so do waistlines.
With all the options children face, they often choose watching television or playing video games instead of physical activities. This lack of regular activity forms habits, promotes unhealthy weight gain and hurts future health.
A recent survey by the International Life Sciences Institute found that just one in four American children gets enough daily exercise. The survey of 1,504 households found that 75 percent of the nation's kids are not vigorously active for even 20 minutes a day.
Linda Patterson, Mississippi State University extension health education specialist, said most adults need at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week, but children need more.
"Adult fitness guidelines are for maintenance of health, not physical development," Patterson said. "For optimum aerobic and strength development, the ideal for children is to get three to four hours of vigorous physical activity each day."
Between school, homework, television, video games and computers, most children don't have time left for physical activities. But Patterson said parents need to help children make time for exercise.
"There are no easy answers to this issue because school is important and other activities have their place," she said. "Parents need to be aware of their child's need for enough physical exertion in order to have the best physical health and mental capacity."
Exercise does not have to be work. Play, chores, sports, biking, yard work and physical education at school can all be a part of an active life.
"To help children develop less sedentary lifestyles, adults should model exercise as a part of an active life rather than a structured activity," Patterson said. "Families need to work and play together for physical fitness as well as to build strong relationships."
While it's OK for children to watch television and play video games, these should never replace active play. An active lifestyle leads to physical fitness as well as mental health.