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Blood tests can diagnose a number of health problems, from the flu to terminal cancer, which is why people should get lab tests regularly. One important condition that a blood test can diagnose is diabetes, which is a growing problem in the U.S. among both children and adults. Kids are eating more and exercising less, increasing their risk of not only developing diabetes, but also heart disease later in life. Recently, researchers from the University of Tennessee set out to combat the problem of childhood obesity head-on, and came up with a comprehensive plan.
The scientists released a report explaining exactly how children can meet the federal recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity a day - and it's easier than many people may think.
A serious issue
First, it's important for people to understand just how much of a problem childhood obesity has become in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of American children are overweight or obese, but this wasn't always the case. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents.
For children, as in adults, being overweight is not just an issue of appearance. Overweight and obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for heart disease. If these children do not lose weight before reaching adulthood, they are well on their way to developing cardiovascular problems or type 2 diabetes. The number of Americans with type 2 diabetes has also risen in the past few years, which could be due to the fact that this condition can be brought on as the result of poor diet and exercise habits.
For all of these reasons, it's important to find ways to encourage children to not only eat healthy foods, but also engage in regular physical activity.
Easy to get active
Researchers discovered that with help from schools and communities, children can easily meet exercise recommendations. The scientists identified exactly what kids would have to do to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day without having to significantly disrupt their academic schedules. The researchers started out by stating that schools should have 23 minutes of mandatory daily physical education, or simply 19 minutes of classroom physical activity breaks. Also, kids who live close enough should walk or bike to school, which gives them another 16 minutes of exercise per day. That right there is close to 60 minutes worth of activity.
Outside of school, the scientists said that if parks were renovated to include more equipment and opportunities for activity, that could tack an extra 12 minutes of activity onto kids' schedules.
Furthermore, physical education classes need to change to increase active time and decrease time spent sitting around waiting to participate or having rules explained. For example, children could be jogging around the gym while a teacher explains the rules of a new game, rather than sitting on the floor. Also, rules of games like dodge ball could be changed so that when kids are "out" they jog or do jumping jacks, rather than simply sit on the benches while their classmates continue to play.
Families need to work together to increase their physical activity levels. Parents can set good examples for their kids by maintaining a healthy weight or working to achieve one, along with eating right and exercising regularly. Families should try to pick a time of day to go for a walk or play catch together, and stick to it as often as possible.
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