Monday, December 17, 2007

Children’s physical fitness should be priority in Congress

Amy Heuer; Bismarck, The Jamestown Sun

Two recent studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine on childhood obesity provide greater evidence that children are in dire need of quality physical education programs in schools. Overweight children have an increased risk for heart disease in adulthood as early as age 25, and are prone to premature heart attacks and strokes. Bottom line, our children are in trouble, and particularly here in North Dakota.

Congress has an opportunity to help improve the health and well-being of our children by supporting the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act, which amends the No Child Left Behind Act to encourage schools to increase physical education and give children the tools they need to stay fit and healthy through adulthood. Not only is a fit child at less risk for future heart disease, studies show they also achieve more academically.

Rising levels of overweight are negatively effecting children’s health and quality of life. The increase in childhood obesity is linked to a dramatic rise in the number of children suffering from type 2 diabetes. If current trends continue, adolescents with type 2 diabetes may experience heart disease symptoms beginning as young as age 30 to 40.

Giving the nation’s children a head start on physical fitness to reduce their risk for obesity-related diseases should be a priority for Congress in 2008. The FIT Kids Act will not only fill a void in NCLB, it will also give children the tools they need to lead healthier lives.

Heuer is president of North Dakota Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, as well as, a Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Grant writer/director bringing Peaceful Playgrounds a physical activity recess program to 10 local schools in North Dakota.