Getting kids to exercise more and cut down on television watching can dramatically reduce their risk of being overweight, according to a new study.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that boys take at least 11,000 steps per day, girls 13,000 steps per day, and total screen time should be limited to two hours per day.
But researchers in the department of kinesiology at Iowa State University found that many children have failed to follow the guidelines.
The researchers gave pedometers to a group of 709 children (ages 7 to 12) from public elementary schools in Iowa and Minnesota to wear for a week. They also surveyed the children about their weekday and weekend television habits, which included watching TV as well as playing video games.
Among those who met both recommendations (12 percent of the boys and 16 percent of the girls), 10 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls were overweight. Among boys and girls who met neither guideline, 35 percent to 40 percent were overweight.
Total mean screen time for all boys was 4 1/2 hours a day, and 3 1/2 hours for girls. The study used data on the same group of children compiled by the Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family.
Adds Laurson, lead author of the study which was published Saturday on the Los Angeles Times web, said: "These guidelines can help (parents) put their child in perspective -- which group would they fall in? Perhaps it could be a motivating factor." He's in favor of using pedometers too: "Physical activity is hard to measure, especially in children, and I think measuring steps taken per day is easy to interpret and a great place to start."
Dr. Teri Metcalf McCambridge, chairman of the academy's council on sports medicine and fitness, agreed. "Walking is one of those things that even if you're heavy, you can do it." And she didn't think that target number of steps is excessive: "Kids probably used to walk that much going to and from school and playing during recess. America as a society now is not walking that much."
The study is to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatric.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency April 21, 2008)