Futures in Practice: Physical Activity
SURGEON GENERAL'S REPORT ON
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND HEALTH
Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General is a
comprehensive overview of research related to physical activity
and health.1 The report (1) summarizes
the benefits of physical activity, (2) reinforces the importance
of promoting physical activity, (3) states that many children
and adolescents are at risk for health problems because of
inactive lifestyles, and (4) states that everyone should
participate in a moderate amount of physical activity (e.g.,
15 minutes of running, 30 minutes of brisk walking, 45 minutes
of playing volleyball) on most, if not all, days of the week.
The report offers the following findings on children's and
adolescents' physical activity behavior:
14 percent of children and adolescents did not participate
in light-to-moderate or vigorous physical activity.
half of adolescents ages 12 to 21 did not participate
regularly in vigorous physical activity.
adolescents were less active than male adolescents, and
black females were less active than white females.
and adolescents' participation in physical activity declined
considerably as they got older.
attendance of high school students in physical education
classes declined from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent
19 percent of high school students were physically active
for 20 minutes or more in daily physical education classes.
findings are disturbing in view of the numerous health benefits
that children and adolescents derive by being physically
active on a regular basis. The Surgeon General's report indicates
that physical activity can lead to improved body composition
(i.e., increased lean muscle mass, reduced total body fat)
and can help reduce other coronary heart disease (CHD) risk
factors among children and adolescents. For example, increased
physical activity levels can favorably alter blood lipid
profiles in children and adolescents at high risk for CHD
(e.g., children and adolescents who are obese or who have
type 1 diabetes mellitus) and can reduce blood pressure,
especially in children and adolescents whose blood pressure
is elevated. Physical activity plays a substantial role in
the development of bone mass during childhood and adolescence
and can help maintain the structure and functional strength
of bone throughout life.
to increase physical activity levels among children and adolescents
have been most successful in school settings. For example,
as a result of intervention, children attending elementary
school were more active in physical education classes. However,
little attention has been focused on promoting physical activity
among children and adolescents in settings other than schools,
including health care settings (e.g., health professionals
counseling children and adolescents about physical activity
during health supervision visits).
professionals, families, peers, and communities can influence
children's and adolescents' physical activity levels. Parents
who participate in physical activity themselves and who support
and encourage physical activity in their children and adolescents
have a positive influence on children's and adolescents'
physical activity levels. In addition, older children and
adolescents whose friends are physically active tend to be
more physically active themselves.
is known about which factors motivate children and adolescents
to become physically active, remain physically active, and
increase their physical activity levels as they become older.
In addition, it is not clear why these factors differ for
females and males or for different racial and ethnic groups.
However, it is clear that females are less likely than males
to participate in vigorous physical activity, participate
in strengthening or toning activities, or participate on
sports teams. Strategies different from those used to promote
physical activity in boys and male adolescents may be needed
to promote physical activity in girls and female adolescents.
Strategies that take into account children's and adolescents'
race or cultural background could also be beneficial. The
Surgeon General's report recommends the following intervention
strategies to promote physical activity in children and adolescents:
physical activity enjoyable.
children and adolescents succeed and increase their confidence
in their ability to be physically active.
children's and adolescents' efforts to be physically
children and adolescents learn about the benefits of
physical activity and help them de-velop positive attitudes
children and adolescents overcome barriers that keep
them from being physically active.
guidelines are available for promoting lifelong physical
activity among children and adolescents in the home, the
community, and health care settings.25 These
guidelines include recommendations for policy and physical
and social environmental interventions.
for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; President's
Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. 1996. Physical
Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington,
DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National
Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion;
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
JF, Patrick K. 1994. Physical activity guidelines for
adolescents: Consensus statement. Pediatric Exercise
for Disease Control and Prevention. 1997. Guidelines
for school and community programs to promote lifelong
activity among young people. Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report 46(RR-6): 136.
CB, Pangrazi RP. 1998. Physical Activity for Children:
A Statement of Guidelines. Reston, VA: National Association
for Sport and Physical Education.
R, Corbin C, Pangrazi B. 1998. Physical activity for
young people. The President's Council on Physical Fitness
Sports Research Digest 3(3):16.
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