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Even Young People Need to Exercise

A recent University of North Carolina study found that only 21 percent of adolescents now take school gym classes regularly. That can lead to some problems, and some bad habits. Dr. Laura Popper, a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center, appeared on The Saturday Early Show with advice on how kids can stay active, and why they should.

Why Kids Are Less Active

It's not just the decline of physical education classes in schools that is keeping kids inactive. They're staying indoors more, watching too much TV and spending too much time playing video games. That cuts into time for sports and other physical activities.

Parental concerns even contribute. Kids who live in high-crime areas may need to stay away from neighborhood parks and remain indoors.

Another factor is the disappearance of regular family mealtimes. Many children fend for themselves from an early age, raiding the refrigerator or visiting fast-food outlets.

The Risks

Children who are inactive run the risk of being obese. Studies have shown that if your kid is obese during childhood, there's a good chance he or she will be obese in adulthood. It is important to recognize this as early as possible.

Other health problems include hypertension and early onset of diabetes as well as a decrease in bone mass. Overweight children also can suffer from low self-esteem and confidence and can get depressed.

Keeping Your Child Active

Children age two to five years don't usually have trouble staying active. Toddlers can't help but run around.

But parents of adolescents should:

  • Limit TV and Video Games
    Kids should spend time after school doing things outdoors.

  • Exercise With Your Children
    Parents need to set good examples. If you're more active and eat right, your kids are likely to follow your example.

  • Enroll Child in Team Sports
    Team sports help children develop an appreciation of teamwork and sportsmanship. As kids get a little older, they are more likely to hang out with their peers. Team sports combine their social tendencies with exercise.

  • Encourage Free Play
    Not all children are good at team sports. If yours aren't, encourage them to learn in-line skating, running or swimming.

  • Join A Recreation Center
    Try taking your child to the local YMCA, or a camp if you can afford it.

Exercise Precautions For Kids

Young children should never weight train with heavy resistances. Their bones can't take heavy loads repetitively. Also, make sure your kid is drinking plenty of fluids and provide the protective equipment recommended for each sport. Supervise children at the playground, especially when they engage in activities that carry a risk of injury.

The Importance Of Diet

Diet is very important, especially if your child doesn't get enough exercise. A child who learns to eat healthy is more likely to do so throughout ife.

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