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Kids Should Get Moving -- But With Supervision

Kids who sit around a lot -- especially in front of television and computer screens -- tend to have higher blood pressure than their more active peers, whether they're chubby or thin. That's what one new study shows.

And kids in school gym classes are getting injured much more frequently than a decade ago, another new study has found.

The first study, published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, tracked the activities and blood pressure of 111 Midwestern kids ages 3 to 11. The mean number of hours the children spent being sedentary was 5 hours a day, with a mean of 1.5 of those hours spent in front of TV or computer screens.

Regardless of their weight, the kids that sat around the most had the highest blood pressure, and the ones who spent the most time in front of screens (both TV and computer -- computer use alone was not linked to higher blood pressure) had the highest of all. It's the first time kids' sedentary behavior has been linked to high blood pressure without a link to overweight in between. (Interesting to note: That 1.5 hours of screen time is actually within the 1-to-2-hour maximum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.)

That, of course, bodes ominously for their future health, as elevated blood pressure is tied to cardiovascular disease and diabetes, among other chronic ailments. The study's authors say more research is needed to tease out the details; it's possible, for instance, that that sitting-around time also involves snacking on unhealthful foods and sleep-schedule disruption that might contribute to high blood pressure.

The second study, published in the September Pediatrics, rounded up P.E.-class-related injury reports for kids ages 5 to 18 from 100 hospital emergency rooms and extrapolated nationwide figures from that data. Despite recent cutbacks in school physical education programs that have led to less gym time for kids, children's gym-class injuries rose more than 150 percent from 1997 to 2007, from an estimated 24,347 per year to an estimated 62,408. The study attributes the phenomenon largely to lack of adult supervision: Most of the injuries involved kids' running into pieces of equipment and other people; there were also many cases of heat stroke, fainting and heart palpitations -- things a gym teacher or supervisor would be trained to help prevent.

The two studies aren't linked in any way, but together they do provoke thought. Is it possible that these sedentary kids of ours are less physically able than they ought to be, so when we set them loose in a gym they're clumsy and injury prone?

Seems to me that we parents need to make sure our kids get up and get moving more at home. And we also need to rally around our schools' phys ed (and recess) programs, demanding more time for them in the schedule -- and funding for adequate supervision to keep our kids safe.

Your thoughts?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 5, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Next: Brain Exercises Can Delay Dementia


Parent's have become way too protective of the children. I cant tell you how many parents are glad that there kids are at home in front of the TV or CPU so they dont have to worry about them getting hurt. Parents, please turn off the TV and computer and send your kids outside. Yes, they are going to get hurt at some point, skin their knees, get stung by a bee, break a couple bones, and need some did we, and we also had fun doing it. Plus we had the bonus of not dealing with childhood obesity and blood pressure. As a child in the 80's and early 90's you skinned your knee you got a Band Aid and got back out there. Now worry wort parents have a conniption and rush you to the ER toting their portable antibiotic spray. How did this happen? The very fact this have become an issue to me is crazy. Staying inside used to be a punishment! These overprotective parents are the same folks who try and attend job interviews with their adult children. Its time to get a grip.

The second study could reflect this as well. When I was in school, if you got hurt during gym class, the coach would simply tell you to walk it off unless it was serious. Now, they have to worry about an over active parent calling the school board and filing lawsuits so every stubbed finger gets rushed to the ER in an ambulance. Kids know this and use it to their advantage if they would rather not participate in gym that day or at all.

I have friends who are school administrators who will tell you that the kids run the show at school, because they run the roost back home and the second they are out of sorts parent appears.

Posted by: thomasd72 | August 5, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: kate1dc | August 5, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"Is it possible that these sedentary kids of ours are less physically able than they ought to be, so when we set them loose in a gym they're clumsy and injury prone?"

Sounds like a reasonable theory - we certainly see that in adults (as in "weekend warriors"). Simple things, like playing on the swings and riding a bike not only help coordination, but build up the core muscles, which helps balance and prevents back injuries.

It's easy to blame the parents (and it is, indeed, their responsibility) but we can also expect our school gym programs to recognize the problem and adjust. Unfortunately, PE is usually underfunded and most likely to lose in the time crunch, so expecting PE instructors to develop programs that help condition sedentary kids is unlikely.

So, more kids get hurt and fewer get an incentive to be active. . . more couch potatoes (who grow up to be adults who remember hating PE and so don't support it).

Posted by: drmary | August 6, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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