Physical activity a vital sign of children’s overall health

Washington: According to a recent study more than half of the children are not getting the recommended amount of weekly physical activity. And most of those who do meet the recommendations are exercising longer and for fewer days, risking burnout or repetitive injury risk.

The study will be presented on November 3 at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando.

The study examined self-reported physical activity of 7,822 children over a three-year period. The children were seen at outpatient pediatric sports medicine clinics.

Data indicates that only 5.2 percent of children reported meeting the daily goals for physical activity. In addition, 49.6 percent were insufficiently active, and 5 percent reported no physical activity. The categories were based on the number of minutes per week in which children participated in physical activity based on the recommended 60 minutes per day or 420 minutes of activity per week.

“Exercise should be used as a vital sign of health. There are numerous advantages to physical activity. Asking these questions can open the door for clinicians to have important conversations with families on how to ensure children get these benefits,” said abstract presenter Julie Young, MA, ATC, a research assistant in the Division of Pediatric Sports Medicine, Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

In the study, males averaged 61 more minutes of physical activity per week than females. Males were also 39 percent more likely than females to meet the current physical activity guidelines of 420 minutes per week.

Researchers also noted that physical activity increased with age, with younger children reporting less exercise. Early childhood physical activity is vital to develop motor skills and physical literacy, which can impact physical activity behaviors throughout life.

“Opportunities for physical activity are shrinking – less free play and decreased physical education in schools, but by asking simple questions about daily activity, clinicians can counsel and provide an exercise prescription for healthy physical activity,” said Amy Valasek, MD, MS, physician for Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine.