Obesity rates continued to climb in 31 states last year...
and not one state showed a decline.
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According to F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are
Failing in America, 2007 (the fourth annual report on obesity from
the Trust for America's Health), rates of overweight children (ages
10 to 17) range from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, D.C., to a
low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the 10 states with the highest
rates of overweight children are in the South. A new public survey featured in the report finds 85% of Americans believe
obesity is an epidemic.
However, it's not just a problem kids are facing. The report
also finds that adult obesity rates rose in over 60% of our nation's
communities last year. Twenty-two states experienced an increase for
the second year in a row, and no state experienced a decrease. Ten of
the 15 states with the highest obesity rates are located in the South.
Colorado continued its reign last year as the leanest state
in the nation with an obesity rate of 17.6 percent. Montana's obesity
rate was 20.7 percent, while Wyoming's was higher at 22.8 percent.
There is a growing trend in schools nationwide to ban
certain playground activities and to remove particular playground
equipment - typically under the concern of "safety," but also under the
threat of potential injury lawsuits. For example, the playground game
"Tag" has been banned in such locations as Cheyenne, Wyoming; Boston,
Massachusetts; Spokane, Washington; Wichita, Kansas; San Jose,
California; and Beaverton, Oregon. National statistics indicate 34
percent of kids are overweight, with obesity projected to be nearly 50
percent in the year 2010. But safety advocates point to different
numbers, saying playground accidents cause 200,000 injuries nationwide
each year, and 17 deaths. As a result, a growing number of schools are
even posting signs that read "No Running On The Playground".
FamilyEducation.com conducted a poll via the Internet which
asked the question, "Should schools be allowed to ban recess?"
They received thousands of responses and 94% of respondents said "No".
Roughly 40 percent of U.S. school districts either
have eliminated recess or are considering eliminating it.
Many schools across America have eliminated commonly
accepted playground equipment, such as swings, merry-go-rounds,
tether ball, tube slides, track rides, arch climbers, teeter-totters,
Some schools in America have banned such sports as soccer
and touch football, all in the name of 'safety'.
There are Internet petitions to ban P.E. from
schools, and the Department of Education's PE requirements call for
children in kindergarten through third grade to get only 45 minutes of
PE per week, 55 minutes a week in fourth and fifth grade, none in middle
school and one credit to graduate from high school. Part of this is due
to pressures for academic achievement in the No Child Left Behind
law that keep students at their desks. Some argue that there isn't
enough time in the school day to fit in PE.
The number of overweight children has tripled since
Over 10 percent of preschool children between ages 2
& 5 are overweight.
About 15 percent of children and adolescents ages
6-19 years are seriously overweight. That is approximately 9 million
young people. Another 15 percent (ages 6-19) are considered at risk of
Researchers found that lowered self-esteem was
associated with being overweight in girls as young as 5.
Children with obesity, ages 10-13, are reported to have a
70% likelihood of obesity persisting into adult years.
About 30% of school-age children are at risk for heart or
circulatory disease and premature death as adults.
40% of children ages 5-8 have at least one heart disease
Illinois requires all students, kindergarteners through high-school
seniors, to attend P.E. class. However, more than 40 percent of Illinois
schools have obtained waivers exempting them from state-mandated
physical education requirements.
According to a report by the National Association of Sport
and Physical Education, Hawaii is among the worst states in meeting
physical education needs, primarily because it does not require
certified, licensed PE teachers for schools.
Ten percent of preschoolers are overweight and
another 10 percent are at risk for becoming overweight.
“Four-year olds are being sent to our school clinics, out of
breath,” says Paula Elbirt, M.D., medical director for the Children’s
Aid Society. “Can you imagine being sent to the clinic because you are
so obese that running around the playground has you out of breath?
In 10 or 15 years, we’re looking at very young people with
cardiovascular complications unless we do something about this.”
“By age six, obesity already matters and affects the
long-term likelihood of being obese and dealing with health problems
like diabetes, cancer and heart disease,” says Jeffrey Schwimmer, M.D.,
director of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
“There is concern that this will be the first generation of
kids to have a shorter life span than their parents,” according to
William Cochran, M.D., director of the Pediatric Weight Management
Center at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.
Obese children are already experiencing the kind of
obesity-related diseases - such as hypertension, high cholesterol
and type 2 diabetes that were once only seen in adults.
In 1999 the hospital costs to treat childhood obesity
hit $127 million, triple the amount spent in 1979.
An estimated 22 percent of American children under age 18
are exposed to
second-hand smoke in the home. It is estimated that 2,000
American young people become smokers every day.
“For every child with diabetes, there are five to ten more
kids who are overweight and may not know that they have insulin
resistance, a diabetes precursor that’s just as deadly over time.
What’s frightening is that insulin resistance is a ticking time bomb for
cardiovascular disease before we even realize a child has diabetes,”
says Floyd Culler, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of
A 21-year-long study of more than 9,100 children in
Bogalusa, Louisiana, found that 58 percent of overweight children (some
as young as 5) had at least one risk factor for heart disease
besides obesity; 20 percent had two or more.
A study of fitness among 9.7 million youngsters between the
ages of 6 and 17 shows that children are getting slower in endurance
and are getting weaker.
Since 1980 there has been a 10 percent drop off on
scores for distance runs and an 11 percent decline in youngsters who
achieved at least a "satisfactory" score on the entire test.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control showed
90 percent of schools allow students to purchase snack foods or
beverages from vending machines or at the school store, canteen or
snack bar, with “less nutritious” foods and beverages making up the
majority of those sales.
Overweight children are experiencing higher rates of
gum disease, sleep apnea, asthma, orthopedic and gallbladder disorders.
Adults who were obese when young have double the
of those who were slender.
Childhood obesity also contributes to social isolation
and peer ridicule.
Nearly half of young people 12-21 years of age are not
The percentage of overweight children between ages 6 and 11
300 percent in the past 25 years.
Some research studies forecast that by 2010, nearly 50%
of all children in the U.S. will be overweight.
Children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day
for their health.
Infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers should engage in
at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily and should not be
sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping.
Numerous studies have shown that active children are more
likely to stay fit
as adults and less likely to become obese and develop diabetes in early
adulthood. They perform better academically, are more social, miss
school less often and are not as likely to drink and take drugs.
Lack of exercise is the primary cause of obesity among kids
ages 11 to 15. Instead of being active, kids are spending more time
playing computer games and watching TV. One quarter of U.S.
children spend 4 hours or more watching television daily.
“Even though heart attack and stroke are rare in
children, evidence shows that the process leading to those conditions
begins in childhood.
26 percent of high school students get daily Physical Education.
40 percent of high school students and 75 percent of high school seniors
are not enrolled in gym classes of any kind.
“Kindergarten through third grade is the crucial
period in which to teach kids basic movement skills," says Robert Malina,
sports sociologist in Bay City, Texas. "Yet both the amount and the
quality of physical education are lacking.”
“Many schools don’t have either the time or money to
fund everything, and when push comes to shove, most people are willing
to cut physical education,” says Michael F. Bergeron, assistant
professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
(This mentality is so prevalent that, for example, it took seven years
for the Louisiana state legislature to approve a compulsory 40 minutes
of PE per day).
An estimated 20% of all cases of new onset type 2
diabetes are in individuals between ages 9 and 19. Twenty years
ago only 2% of newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes occurred in
young people. While there is no cure for diabetes, diet and exercise are
cornerstones to treatment. Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Exercise
Physiologist for Americans Communicating Electronically said, "It has
been estimated that diet and exercise could produce a more than 60%
reduction in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in children and teens."
Healthful lifestyle training should begin in
childhood to promote improved cardiovascular health in adult life. The
following good health practices should be promoted among children:
regular physical activity
a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet after the age of two
appropriate weight for height
regular pediatric medical checkups
What Can We Do?
To aid in reversing the above-listed trends, our nation's schools can
support physical education programs and develop after-school exercise
opportunities that anyone can enjoy - regardless of athletic ability.
There should be a greater emphasis on teaching children the inevitable
harms associated with the lack of physical fitness and proper nutrition.
More communities should seek to start youth fun runs, mileage clubs,
fitness mentoring programs, and other physical fitness activities that
get kids up and moving. The Route 66 Virtual Trek curriculum
(www.pacetrek.com/kids66) is just one way that Russell Elementary School in Missoula,
Montana is working to change the overweight trend in America. The solutions to the problem are only limited by
our time, dedication and imagination. However, it is also important
to note that this growing problem is not solely with the children's
population. Despite common knowledge that exercise is healthful, more
than 60 percent of American adults are not regularly physically active,
and 37 percent of the adult population are not active at all. In fact,
more than 108 million adults are either obese or overweight. The
adult population needs to set the pace toward greater fitness in the
To turn the tide on the growing epidemic of childhood
obesity in the United States, more people are going to have to get off
the sidelines and into the race to help get our nation's youth fit for
life. Keep this in mind: according to a November 2005 study in “Archives
of Internal Medicine,” a moderate level of physical activity, such as
walking 30 minutes a day, lengthens life by 1.3 years. What would
you do with an extra 1.3 years? It's something to think about!
and quotes are from the following: Family Circle Magazine, April, 2004
Issue (in an article entitled “Don’t Let Your Child Grow Up to Be Fat,”
by Norine Dworkin); The Baltimore Sun News; ACE FitnessMatters (Volume
10, Issue 3, 2004, pages 6-9); The U.S. Centers for Disease Control; The
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; The American
Alliance for Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance; National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey; National Association for Sports and
Physical Education; The Chrysler Fund Amateur Athletic Union; The
International Journal of Pediatric Obesity; USA Today; JustMove.org; www.pbs.org/now/science/fit.html;
The information contained in this web site is not a substitute for
medical advice or treatment by a physician or health professional. See
your doctor or health professional to discuss what's best for you before
changing your physical activity. The American Heart Association
recommends that you consult with your physician or health professional
for all questions related to your health.