Overweight occurs when too few calories are expended and too many consumed for individual metabolic requirements. The results of weight loss programs focused on dietary restrictions alone have not been encouraging. Physical activity burns calories, increases the proportion of lean to fat body mass, and raises the metabolic rate. Therefore, a combination of both caloric control and increased physical activity is important for attaining a healthy body weight.
Practices should be adopted that are safe and that lead to long-term maintenance of appropriate weight. Extreme behaviors as exhibited in bulimia or anorexia nervosa should be medically treated.
Participation in school physical education assures a minimum amount of physical activity by children and continued physical activity into adulthood. Findings from the National Children and Youth Fitness Studies I and II suggest that the quantity, and in particular the quality, of school physical education programs have a significant positive effect on the health-related fitness of children and youth. In addition, recent reports suggest that physical education programs in early childhood not only promote health and well-being, but also contribute to academic achievement.
Concern about the amount and quality of youth physical activity and school physical education has been expressed by several groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Sports Medicine. In 1987, both houses of Congress passed a resolution (H. Con. Res. 97) encouraging state and local educational agencies to provide high quality daily physical education programs for all children in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Most children in the lower grades are enrolled in school physical education but many receive it fewer than 5 days per week. In the upper grades, fewer children are enrolled but those who are more often participate in daily physical education classes. Therefore, to achieve this objective, physical education needs to be more frequent for children in the lower grades, whereas enrollment needs to be increased for children in the upper grades.
Lifetime activities are activities that may be readily carried into adulthood because they generally need only one or two people. Examples include swimming, bicycling, jogging, and racquet sports. Also counted as lifetime activities are vigorous social activities such as dancing. Competitive group sports and activities typically placed only to young children such as group games are excluded.
Muscular strength, muscular endurance, and joint flexibility are excepted components of health-related fitness although the type, frequency, duration, and intensity of activities necessary for specific age and gender groups remains to be determined. Regular participation in home maintenance, yard work, gardening, and selected occupational activities may satisfy this objective in adults. Participation in games and other active childhood pursuits may satisfy this objective in children. Satisfying this objective may require combinations of activities as not all activities will both increase muscular strength and endurance and enhance flexibility. Joint movement through the full range of motion helps to improve and maintain flexibility. Stretching exercises and engaging regularly in a variety of physical activities may help to satisfy this objective.
Physical activities that improve muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility also improve the ability to perform tasks of daily living. The performance of routine daily activities is particularly important to maintaining functional independence and social integration in older adults. Increasing the public's awareness of all of these potential benefits may help to encourage the pursuit of activities that will promote muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.
Good nutrition also is important for your child. As with physical activity, you are a role model. When you choose and prepare healthful foods, your child also will be more likely to follow your example. The first step toward helping your child eat a healthier diet is making a variety of nutritious foods readily available at home. That way your child can choose what he or she likes.
Make family meals a priority beginning with breakfast. Breakfast is important because it provides a major part of a child's daily energy supply. Children who eat breakfast are better nourished and are more likely to meet their daily need for certain essential vitamins and minerals than breakfast skippers. Parents should keep an assortment of convenient, nutritious breakfast choices available and within easy reach of their children. The best choices are high-carbohydrate, low-fat foods like cereal or cereal bars, low-fat milk and fruit.
Data sources: For students in 5th through 12th grade, the National Children and Youth Fitness Study 1, ODPHP; for students in 1st through 4th grade, the National Children and Youth Fitness Study II, ODPHP.
(Source: National Health Interview Survey, CDC.)