Futures in Practice: Physical Activity
TO PROMOTE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
embrace physical activity and establish healthy physical
activity behaviors early in life, children and adolescents
need opportunities for developmentally appropriate physical
activity, safe places in which to be physically active, and
encouragement and support. Partnerships among health professionals,
families, and communities are essential for establishing
opportunities for physical activity. These activities should
meet the needs of children and adolescents with diverse interests
and abilities, and from all income levels and racial and
ethnic backgrounds. Health professionals, families, and communities
can also communicate positive, consistent messages that physical
activity is fun.
professionals play a key role in promoting physical activity.
As part of health supervision visits, they need to assess
children's and adolescents' physical activity levels. Health
professionals can reinforce the importance of physical activity
among physically active children and adolescents, counsel
children and adolescents who are not physically active, refer
families to appropriate physical activity programs, and identify
barriers that keep children and adolescents from participating
in physical activity. Health professionals can also establish
partnerships with communities (e.g., child care facilities,
schools, recreation centers) to raise awareness about the
benefits of physical activity for children and adolescents,
be positive role models, and serve as advocates for high-quality
physical activity programs.
activity begins at home. Children and adolescents who are
physically active usually have parents or other family members
who encourage them to participate in physical activity, participate
in physical activity with them, watch them play or compete,
and provide transportation to physical activity and sports
events.1,2 Families can be positive role models by participating
in physical activity themselves and communicating positive
and consistent messages that physical activity is valuable
and enjoyable, and that daily physical activity is a priority.
For example, parents can walk instead of drive a car to the
store and use the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
Parents can also limit children's and adolescents' sedentary
behaviors, such as watching television and videotapes and
playing computer games. Finally, children and adolescents
can organize physical activities themselves with friends
and family members.
can provide children and adolescents with physical activity
opportunities through schools, recreation facilities, parks,
organizations that serve children and adolescents (e.g.,
the YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs
of America, 4-H), and churches and other places of worship.
Communities need to offer enjoyable, developmentally appropriate
physical activities that focus on participation, not competition.
activity should be an important component of early childhood
education programs such as Head Start and other preschool
programs. Students from kindergarten to 12th grade need to
participate in daily physical education classes that help
them develop motor skills. In elementary schools, recess
should provide an opportunity for physical activity. Extracurricular
physical activity programs for children and adolescents who
are not competitive or sports-oriented should be available
most physical activity among children and adolescents occurs
outside school, it is essential that they have other opportunities
to be physically active. Communities can help ensure that
children and adolescents have places in which to be physically
active. Communities need to consider the following:
there safe playgrounds, parks, and recreation facilities?
school facilities open for use after school hours?
there recreation facilities open to everyone free of charge?
there clearly marked walking and biking trails?
physical activities such as team sports and recreation leagues
there physical activity opportunities for both sexes, at
all skill levels?
need adequate resources, including finances, facilities,
equipment, transportation, safe places, and trained staff,
to provide opportunities for physical activity. Partnerships
among businesses and other organizations can support programs
that are accessible to all children and adolescents in the
community. In addition, these partnerships can provide needed
clothing, equipment, footwear, and transportation for children
and adolescents from families with low incomes to enable
them to participate.
be successful, community physical activity programs for children
and adolescents must be appealing and fun. Activities can
include running in relay races, playing tag, dancing, bowling,
walking, and hiking. Programs need to deemphasize winning
and focus on enjoyment and participation. Children and adolescents
need challenges that are appropriate for their skill levels.
following examples highlight community partnerships to promote
physical activity in children and adolescents.
Links is funded by the New York State Department of Health.
The program's goal is to reduce the risk of heart disease
among residents of eastern Long Island by promoting healthy
physical activity and eating behaviors. The target group
consists of elementary school children and their families,
teachers, and administrators. Participation of a wide range
of community organizations is coordinated by the University
Hospital and Health Sciences Center of the State University
of New York at Stony Brook. Children and their families can
participate in dance clinics, walking clubs, 5K runs, and
Fever is the result of a partnership among the Minnesota
Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Education,
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and other organizations
interested in children's and adolescents' health. Fitness
Fever strives to change physical activity and eating attitudes
and behaviors of first- through sixth-grade students throughout
has the responsibility and the challenge of ensuring the
health and well-being of the current generation and of generations
to come. Health professionals, families, and communities
can accomplish this goal by working together to help children
and adolescents establish healthy physical activity behaviors
early in life.
JF, Prochaska JJ, Taylor WC, Hill JO, Geraci JC. 1999. Correlates
of physical activity in a nationally representative sample
of girls and boys in grades 4 through 12. Health Psychology
Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 1998. Survey results link
parental physical activity to children's behaviors. Weight-Control
Information Network 4(2):23.
PR, Stone EJ, Lytle LA, Perry CL, Osganian SK, et al. 1999.
Three-year maintenance of improved diet and physical activity:
The CATCH cohort. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
for Disease Control and Prevention. 1997. Guidelines for
school and community programs to promote lifelong physical
activity among young people. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
JF, Patrick K. 1994. Physical activity guidelines for adolescents:
Consensus statement. Pediatric Exercise Science 6(4) :302314.
EJ, McKenzie TL, Welk GJ, Booth ML. 1998. Effects of physical
activity interventions in youth: Review and synthesis. American
Journal of Preventive Medicine 15(4):298315.
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