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.
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