Childhood Obesity

There’s reason to be concerned about the lack of activity in your children. Obesity is one of the most serious health problems facing our youth, and evidence suggests that the problem is only getting worse.

Researchers comparing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys found that 11 percent of young people from 6–17 years of age were overweight in 1998 compared with about 4 percent in 1963. Children are selecting sedentary activities, such as television, video games and personal computing along with eating an abundance of processed high fat and sugary foods.

A survey reported that more than 40 percent of children 5-8 exhibit coronary risk factors, such as elevated blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol.

The National Federation of State High School Associations reported that 3.7 million boys and 2.4 million girls participated in more than 30 different high school sports in 1997. Children who get most of their exercise from sports will have to make lifestyle changes as they age.

Formal athletic experiences do not provide the lifestyle skills necessary to start and maintain regular exercise.

More than a decade ago, congress passed a resolution urging individual states to require daily physical education programs for all school-aged children.


The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance reported that a survey revealed that as many as half of our young people are not engaged in sufficient physical activity to develop adequate cardiovascular fitness. One third of school-aged boys and girls were unable to complete a mile run in less than 10 minutes.

The survey also found that only one state, Illinois, required all students from kindergarten to grade 12 to take physical education every day.

Eight states had no school physical education requirements. During the ’90’s enrollment in physical education had reached an all-time low. According to the most recent data, only 60.7 percent of high school boys and 51.5 percent of high school girls are enrolled in physical education class.

The results of several studies have pointed out that children often don’t even get much physical activity in their physical education classes.

For instance, one study of elementary physical education classes found that in a 30-minute class, the average child was vigorously active for only 2 minutes. Only 76.3 percent of students in grades 9–12 who were taking physical education reported being physically active for at least 20 minutes a day.

A research group observed children during recess and concluded that they do not voluntarily engage in sufficient aerobic activity during recess to increase their cardio-respiratory fitness. Some schools have eliminated recess periods for children, while others allow them to spend recess indoors, where computers are available for homework and games.

Helping people develop physical fitness habits for a lifetime should start as early as possible. To help children develop a lifetime commitment, school physical education programs must help them learn how to establish personal exercise programs, test their own physical fitness and overcome obstacles to making fitness a permanent part of their life.

The intent of physical activity programs should be to develop positive attitudes toward physical activity that will substantially influence adult activity patterns.

The problems caused by schools’ failure to help children develop the skills to participate in physical activity are exacerbated as young adults enter the work force. A large-scale effort needs to be coordinated to improve the profile of the health of our youth.

About the Author

Kelli Calabrese, MS, CSCS – 2004 Personal Trainer of the Year for Online Trainer. She is a 19 year fitness industry leader, author, trainer, international presenter and body transformation specialist. Kelli is on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Personal Trainers, An Expert Fellow for the National Board of Fitness Examiners, the Lead Exercise Physiologist for NESTA (National Exercise Sports Trainers Association), Publisher of Personal Fitness Professional Magazine and has attained over 20 fitness and nutrition certifications. Kelli is the co-author of Feminine, Firm and Fit and is available for fitness consulting. She can be reached at For more details go to

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