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The Problem

Children today spend less time being physically active and more time engaging in sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games. Their activity levels tend to drop even further during adolescence.

The decreased amount of daily physical activity is one of the contributors to the youth obesity epidemic. The number of overweight children ages 6–19 has more than tripled since 1980 (CDC, 2006).

The current lack of physical activity among our children can lead to immediate health problems and can compromise their future health. That lack of physical activity and the increase in unhealthy behaviors contribute to emerging health issues for our children, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure (Surgeon General, 2001), diabetes, gall bladder disease, and sleep apnea (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2002).

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (CDC, 2002) data shows that 32 percent of children in the United States attend physical education classes daily, down from 42 percent in 1991. Yet, other studies show that children spend almost six and one–half hours each day using media, including TV, video games, and the Internet (University of Pennsylvania, 2000). Television is the medium with which children spend the most time (University of Pennsylvania, 2000).

The Benefit

Physical activity has been identified as one of our nation's ten leading health indicators in Healthy People 2010 (USDHHS, 2000a). Regular participation in physical activity during childhood and adolescence:

  • helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, and improves aerobic fitness levels
  • helps control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce levels of body fat
  • prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure and helps reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension
  • reduces feelings of depression and anxiety

Recent research also has shown that higher academic achievement is associated with higher levels of fitness (California Department of Education, 2002). In the long–term, regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. It also helps to develop skills that can benefit children for life, including:

  • goal setting and achievement
  • getting along with others
  • leadership
  • teamwork

Contact Us:
  • Division of Adolescent and School Health
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    MS K-29
    Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
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    24 Hours/Every Day
  • Contact CDC-INFO
- The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
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