The Importance of Regular Physical Activity for Children
The United States has seen a decrease in the number of children who are physically active and an increase in the number of children who are overweight.
- Nearly half of young people aged 12-21 years in the United States
are not vigorously active on a regular basis.
- About 14% of young people report no recent physical activity.
- Over the past 30 years the percent of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years has more than doubled.
While more research is needed to understand all of the implications of being an overweight or inactive child, we do know that obesity and its health risk factors tend to persist. Overweight children are more likely to become obese adults. Overweight and obese adults are at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and gall bladder disease.
The KidsWalk-to-School program encourages physical activity as an integral part of a child’s daily routine. It assumes that teaching children the importance and pleasure of walking and bicycling to and from school may help to increase the likelihood that they will engage in other forms of physical activity.
Here are some of the potential benefits of regular physical activity for children:
- Builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
- Helps control weight, build lean muscle and reduce fat.
- Improves sense of self-image and autonomy.
- Fosters healthy social and emotional development.
In addition, preliminary data show that physical activity may improve academic performance and alertness in youth.
- Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health: Adolescents and Young Adults
- Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health: Report Contents
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Page last updated: May 22, 2007
Content Source: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion