Link Parental Physical Activity to Children's
Parents who decide it's critical
for their children to be physically active
and are physically active themselves have
children who are also active. What gets
children moving is what parents do, not
what parents say.
A survey of parents' and children's physical
activity patterns shows that parents who
are active themselves, play with their children,
watch children compete or play, or take
children to physical activity or sports
events have more physically active children.
The national survey, released July 1, 1997,
was commissioned by the International Life
Sciences Institute's (ILSI) Physical Activity
and Nutrition Program (PAN).
ILSI made three recommendations for action
when releasing the survey results.
Physical activity should be a family affair.
Parents need to say "no more excuses"
and take responsibility for providing motivation
and support for children's physical activity.
Parents should be active in promoting lifelong
enjoyment of physical activity.
Parents need to insist schools put the
fourth R back into the curriculum: Reading,
wRiting, aRithmetic, and Recreation. Daily
physical education classes should be reinstated
at all grade levels with the content revamped
to give children maximum enjoyment and benefit.
Community programs need to consult parents
and children to ensure that activities appeal
to children and are fun. Only in this way
can physical activity compete with sedentary
activities such as watching television,
surfing the Web, and playing video games.
In the survey of 1,504 households, one parent
and one child from grades 4-12 were interviewed
to identify predictors of activity levels
in children and how the family's role shapes
behaviors. According to the survey, fewer
than one in four children gets 30 minutes
of moderate to vigorous activity a day.
Physical activity, while critical to the
healthy growth and development of children
and beneficial throughout life, is not a
part of every child's daily existence.
The survey also revealed that parents and
children want more physical activity opportunities
in their communities and are willing to
volunteer and help turn underutilized public
school facilities, such as playgrounds,
gyms, and swimming pools, into recreational
centers during nonschool hours year-round.
As parents and children express interest
in expanding nonschool opportunities for
physical activity, some schools have dropped
physical education requirements altogether.
"Just as we're learning how important
physical activity is to the health of young
people and adults, we're seeing a decline
in the number of schools that require daily
physical education," says Lloyd Kolbe,
director, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention's division of adolescent and
"The survey data amounts to a call
to action for parents, schools, and communities.
Lack of physical activity is a major reason
why children's obesity levels are at all-time
highs," says James O. Hill, Ph.D.,
chairman of the PAN Advisory Committee,
professor of pediatrics and medicine at
the University of Colorado Health Sciences
Center, and a member of the National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases'
National Task Force on Prevention and Treatment
of Obesity. "Daily physical activity
for children needs to become a priority
for parents equal to that of buckling seat
belts," he says.
For information on PAN or the survey's
executive summary, contact the International
Life Sciences Institute, 1126 Sixteenth
Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-4810; phone:
(202) 659-0074; fax: (202) 659-3859; e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://www.ilsi.org.