The prevalence of childhood obesity is rising dramatically in the United States as well as in many other countries. Compounding the problem is the fact that children are not as physically active as they were in decades past. Although physical activity has been shown to decline throughout the lifespan, the decline in physical activity is greatest during adolescence. In addition, girls are less active than boys at all ages. Children can benefit from regular physical activity, structured exercise, and specific exercise training regimens. However, the volume and intensity of exercise in which children participate needs to be monitored, because children are at greater risk for musculoskeletal injury, heat disorders, and emotional distress than adults. Injury prevention can best be achieved by encouraging children to participate in exercise for fun, at moderate intensities, and in moderate environments.
Recent research suggests that as children grow and mature, their level of daily physical activity decreases. Boys and girls between 9-13 years old show a dramatic decline in physical activity. When comparing chronological ages, boys' decline in physical activity is less pronounced than girls. However, when comparing the genders by biological age, the gender differences in physical activity disappear. However, both genders show a similar decline in physical activity with biological maturity. It is not difficult to surmise that as these young people continue on through high school, their physical activity levels will continue to decline, when considering only 33 percent of high school students participate in physical education.
There has been a recent upsurge in the number of children who are contracting Type 2 diabetes, previously known as adult-onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a disease that previously was only rarely seen in adults under 40 years old. More children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, most between 10-19 years old, the same age where physical activity and participation in physical education declines. Because regular physical activity increases insulin sensitivity, the declining number of physically active children is thought to be a major contributor to this trend in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in children.
Because the rise in the prevalence of obesity in children is a relatively new phenomenon, the body of research that deals with pediatric exercise prescription is relatively scant. Up until now, the need for deliberate exercise programming for children has been minimal, because historically, children have been quite physically active. While it is generally accepted that conventional aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, and cycling are beneficial for children, misconceptions surrounding the efficacy and safety of strength training for children unfortunately persist.
The most common concern regarding strength training or resistance training and children involves the risk of damage to underdeveloped or immature tissues. It is generally agreed that incorporating resistance training exercises that do not use maximal loads will not result in trauma to these tissues. In fact, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, there are no justifiable safety reasons to preclude prepubescent individuals or adolescents from participating in a properly designed and supervised resistance training program. Resistance training in children has been shown to increase strength beyond what is expected during normal growth and development. In adults, resistance training increases the strength of ligaments, tendons, and bones, which decreases the risks of injury. It is likely that these same protective effects occur in children as well. The benefits of resistance training for obese adolescents have also been documented.
Obese adolescents who undergo several weeks of circuit-type resistance training program show a reduced body fat and normalized vascular blood low. Reductions in body fat following resistance training are likely brought about due to an increase in muscle mass which leads to an increase in one's metabolic rate. Resistance training has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Properly designed resistance training programs for children should target all the major large muscle groups, and should incorporate multijoint exercises such as the barbell squat, dead lift, and bench press. Training intensity should initially be light but progress toward loads that allow for the completion of six to 15 repetitions. Training should occur two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days, with one to three sets per exercise.
The current position of the National Strength and Conditioning Association is that a properly designed and supervised resistance training program
1. is safe for children;
2. can increase the strength of children;
3. can help to enhance the motor fitness skills and sports performance of children;
4. can help to prevent injuries in youth sports and recreational activities;
5. can help to improve the psychosocial wellbeing of children; and
6. can enhance the overall health of children.
Many children and adolescents participate in organized sports and personal fitness programs designed to develop athletic skills and increase fitness. However, new injury patterns are developing as the focus of these programs shifts from free play to regimented competition. An estimated 50 percent of all injuries or harm sustained by children and adolescents while playing organized sports are preventable. The major portion of responsibility for safe participation in exercise and sport for youth lies not with the youth, but with adults. To provide the safest environment for children participating in exercise and sport, adults need to understand how and when children are most susceptible to exercise-induced harm.
Exercise harm for youth can be classified into two categories: physical injuries and emotional distress. Children are most susceptible to physical injuries during growth periods, and most of these injuries are related to the shearing forces that act upon the musculoskeletal system during intense exercise. The growing bones of children are at greater risk for mechanical injury than mature bones of adults because the ends of the growing bones are less dense and relatively weak. In addition, the ends of the bones are more prone to joint injuries because of undeveloped cartilage and tendons, which are connective tissues that connect bone to bone and muscles to bone. This risk can be overcome by not having children participate in heavy strength training and intense prolonged aerobic training.
Another physical problem that children face is their inability to dissipate heat, which puts them at greater risk for heat disorders than the exercising adult. This problem can be avoided by not allowing children to participate in prolonged intense exercise in hot, humid environments. Children should also be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids during physical activity, even when they are not thirsty.
Many children are specializing in sports at an early age and train year-round to compete at a higher level. The ever-increasing requirements for success create a constant pressure for athletes to train longer and harder. Pressure to win or perform at a high standard is probably the greatest stressor inducing psychiatric illness in young athletes. The focus of sport for children should not be competition and children should not specialize in sports until after adolescence.
A.D. Faigenbaum, "Strength Training for Children and Adolescents," Clinics in Sports Medicine (v.19/4, 2000);
Toivo Jurimae and Jaak Jurimae, Growth, Physical Activity, and Motor Development in Prepubertal Children (Informa Healthcare, 2001);
Sylvia Rimm and Eric Rimm, Rescuing the Emotional Lives of Overweight Children: What Our Kids Go Through--And How We Can Help (Rodale Books, 2005).
EssayEmpire offers you the best custom essay writing services, along with term paper, thesis paper, and research paper writing help. Our company employs professional essay writers who are fully qualified in a variety of academic fields.
If you require a high quality writing service that is capable of writing authentic essays, term papers or research papers because you simply don't have the time or resources to do them yourself or maybe they seem too complicated and time consuming, you don't need to look any further. EssayEmpire is the perfect place for all your needs.
If you need high quality Research Paper on Physical Activity and Obesity in Children at affordable prices please use our essay writing services offered by EssayEmpire.