Percentage of overweight young people has doubled in last 20 years

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    By Marnie Keller

    A wise man once said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But recent studies show an apple a day doesn”t quite cut it.

    Young people in the United States are in large measure, inactive, unfit, and increasingly overweight, according to the National Center for Disease Control.

    The percentage of young people who are overweight has doubled since 1980.

    Physical inactivity combined with poor diet accounts for 300,000 deaths per year, according to a 1996 Surgeon General”s Report on Physical Activity and Health.

    Behavior is shaped, in large measure, by one”s environment.

    “Our young people live in a social and physical environment that makes it easy to be sedentary and inconvenient to be active,” according to a recent report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services and from the Secretary of Education, “Healthy People 2010.”

    “Physical inactivity threatens to reverse decades long progress in reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease,” according to the National Center for Disease Control.

    This potential increase in cardiovascular disease will ultimately have a devastating impact on the national health care budget.

    According to “Healthy People 2010,” families play a critical role in shaping a child”s physical activity experiences.

    Opportunities and motivation to be physically active begin in the home. Studies have found that adolescents are more likely to be active if their parents or siblings are active, according to the report provided by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education.

    The report listed four things parents could do to encourage their children to exercise.

    First, parents and guardians should encourage their children to be active on a regular basis.

    Second, parents should be physically fit role models.

    Third, parents should set limits on the amount of time their children spend watching television and playing video or computer games.

    Fourth, parents should plan and participate in family activities that include physical activities. Families can take walks or go bicycling instead of driving. Doing active chores like vacuuming and mowing the lawn are also beneficial to a child”s physical activity level.

    “Every Saturday was work day,” said Chelsea Combs, 23, from Lewisville, Texas, a senior majoring in Humanities. “We would start in the yard, weeding the flower beds and replanting bushes.”

    She learned the value of hard, physical labor from a young age.

    “My parents were prime examples of incorporating physical activities into my daily life,” Combs said.

    Combs played tennis all through high school.

    “Being involved in a sport gave me an outlet for my energy. I still participate in regular physical activities because of the habits I formed playing tennis so many years ago,” Combs said.

    The Surgeon General”s Report on Physical Activity and Health identified four main benefits of regular participation in physical activity.

    First, regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints. Second, regular exercise helps control weight, build lean muscle and reduce fat. Third, it prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure and helps reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension. Fourth, regular physical activities reduce feelings of depression, stress and anxiety.

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