Report: U.S. Kids Need More Opportunities for Physical Activity

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Released: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

First-Ever National Report Card Released Evaluating Physical Activity of America’s Children and Youth, Guided by Pennington Biomedical Researchers

BATON ROUGE, LA / WASHINGTON, DC (April 29, 2014) – Only one quarter of the roughly 74 million children in the United States are currently meeting physical activity guidelines according to a report issued today in Washington, DC.  The report was authored by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, along with concerned colleagues from across the country. 

The United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth was released on Capitol Hill by Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk – Chairman of the 2014 Report Card Research Advisory Committee and Pennington Biomedical’s Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences. 

Dr. Katzmarzyk explained the research methodology and purpose of the report card to an audience of lawmakers, stake holders, youth and sports enthusiasts. “Louisianans are likely familiar with earlier versions of this report,” said Katzmarzyk. “Pennington Biomedical has published a Louisiana specific report on the physical activity levels of our youth since 2008 [Louisiana’s Report Card on Physical Activity and Health for Children and Youth].  Louisiana’s reports came to largely the same conclusions as the national findings – we as a nation need to work on providing more opportunities for our kids to get out and be active.”

Researchers from Pennington Biomedical in collaboration with the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) Alliance and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), joined forces to propel the Louisiana report into the first-ever national report card. Louisiana’s report card was modeled on a similar Canadian report card that will celebrate its tenth anniversary this summer.

U.S. Congressional Fitness Caucus co-chairs – Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) – kicked off the briefing, which included remarks from representatives of Designed to Move; SHAPE America; Ken Harvey, four-time Pro Bowl Washington Redskins linebacker; and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic gold medalist.

Dr. Katzmarzyk said the primary goal of the report card is to assess levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviors in American children and youth, facilitators and barriers for physical activity and related health outcomes. “We hope the report card will galvanize researchers, health professionals, community members, and policy makers across the U.S. to improve our children’s physical activity opportunities, which will improve health, prevent disease and disability, and enhance quality of life,” he said.

The report notes that physical activity levels in American youth fall far below the recommended 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day and much of children’s days are spent sedentary. Fifty percent of waking hours are spent in sedentary activity for children and youth, and this percentage rises with age.

In addition to Dr. Katzmarzyk, the report card committee was comprised of physical activity and health behavior experts from several U.S. academic institutions, including Pennington Biomedical’s Kara Dentro and Dr. Melinda Sothern from the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. Grades were assigned by the committee utilizing the most recent, nationally representative data available to provide a comprehensive evaluation of physical activity. The grades reflect how well the U.S. is succeeding in providing children and youth opportunities or support for physical activity.

Report card committee members offered some constructive calls to action for lawmakers today in response to the report card grades emphasizing that government has an important role to play in surveillance, research, and policy. “Physical activity levels among children and youth in the U.S. are low, and sedentary behavior is high,” said report author, Dentro. “It’s pretty clear that the current infrastructure, policies, programs, and investments in support of physical activity in children and youth aren’t making the grade. It’s encouraging that our Louisiana report was so well received that it has grown into a national model aimed at improving the health of our kids.”

The U.S. national report card is among the first in a series of physical activity report cards in countries around the world that will be updated annually, providing an unprecedented global benchmark using a common methodology on this pivotal public health issue.  Canada will issue their report card in May with other countries to follow.  In 2015, Pennington Biomedical plans to issue an interim report card for Louisiana noting progress toward the goals set forth in their 2011 report.

For the full report or summary edition and more information, please visit: www.pbrc.edu/usreportcard.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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