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Institute of Medicine calls for kids to get more exercise

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Blood tests to check for cholesterol levels are not just important for adults, but children as well. As childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S., parents need to realize that children need to be screened for obesity-related conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol. It's also important for parents, educators, community leaders and politicians to all come together to find ways to keep kids healthy.

Recently, a report from the Institute of Medicine calls for schools to do their part to help kids maintain a healthy weight by ensuring that they engage in 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity during each school day.

"Schools are critical for the education and health of our children," said Harold Kohl, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "They already provide key services such as health screenings, immunizations and nutritious meals. Daily physical activity is as important to children's health and development as these other health-related services, and providing opportunities for physical activity should be a priority for all schools, both through physical education and other options."

Schools are key
Kohl explained that children are in school for nearly half of their waking hours, which is why it's so important to find ways to keep them active during this time. While many state laws require that schools have gym classes, the report calls for the U.S. Department of Education to make physical education a core subject, so that all schools would be accountable for making sure that kids are getting regular exercise.

The IOM explained that since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act, 44 percent of school administrators have reported that they had to significantly reduce the amount of time they spend on gym classes and recess in order to have more time during the day for reading and writing. However, the IOM pointed out that a growing amount of research has shown that getting physical activity during the day may help kids perform better in their academics, and that the benefits of exercise could outweigh the effects of spending less time in the classroom.

Furthermore, Kohl explained that this 60 minutes a day would be done in creative ways.

"The approach would target physical education, active commuting, before and after-school activities, sports and other opportunities to help children meet the 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate intensity physical activity," said Kohl.

The researcher also called for parents to talk to the principle of their children's schools to ensure that they have access to physical education. He also said that parents need to lead by example by living a healthy lifestyle to show their kids the benefits for getting regular exercise.

Keep kids fit
PBS Parents recommends that when trying to get kids to be active, parents shouldn't use the word "exercise." Instead, they should focus on all the fun ways that kids can workout, like playing in the park or riding their bikes.

Also, when shopping for a child's next birthday, parents should consider purchasing fitness-related things. For example, many video game systems encourage kids to move around while they play. If these systems aren't in the budget, then parents can always go to old standards such as jump-ropes, hula-hoops and even sidewalk chalk to make hopscotch. Parents don't have to spend a lot of money to make sure that their kids get the exercise they need - all it takes is a little bit of effort from the whole family.

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