Kids Need an Hour of Exercise a Day
CDC-Backed Panel Issues New Recommendation for Kids to Stay Healthy
June 13, 2005 -- Kids need at least an hour a day of physical activity to
ensure good health, according to the findings of a CDC-backed expert panel.
As childhood obesity climbs to record levels and school-based physical
education programs seem increasingly endangered, panel members say they hope
the recommendations will serve as a wake-up call to parents, doctors, public
health officials, and school administrators.
Panel co-chairman William B. Strong, MD, tells WebMD that children are far
more likely to get no exercise over the course of a day than a full 60
"Obesity is a significant problem in the young as well as the old,"
he says. "If we don't do something to get children moving we are going to
have a phenomenal epidemic of obesity-related diseases 20 to 30 years from
5 Minutes a Day
Strong says his own research suggests that 8- to 11-year-olds get an average
of about five minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. And a
government-funded study recently showed that children typically get less than
25 minutes of exercise a week in school-based physical education programs.
The panel was convened because there was no consensus on the amount of
physical activity children actually need.
"We know that adults need 30 minutes (of moderate to vigorous exercise)
a day for cardiovascular fitness, 60 minutes for weight management, and
probably more than that for weight loss" says panel member Stephen R.
Daniels, MD, PhD. "But we don't know as much about the needs of
The 13-member independent panel reviewed published studies and abstracts
assessing the impact of physical activity on a wide range of health issues in
The review was funded by the CDC's nutrition and physical activity and
adolescent and school health divisions. The findings are published in the June
issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.
Daniels says the review highlighted the need for good research on exercise
and health in children. The CDC's William Dietz, MD, PhD, made the same point
in an editorial accompanying the study.
Dietz wrote that "the gap in knowledge identified by the review provides
the basis for research for years to come."
"No studies have yet prospectively defined the amount of physical
activity necessary to prevent excessive weight gain in children or
adolescents," he added.
PE Under Siege
All the experts contacted by WebMD agreed that the lack of opportunity for
exercise during the school day is a big part of the problem. With the
increasing emphasis on raising test scores, physical education classes are
disappearing from the nation's middle and high schools and many elementary
schools have done away with recess.
"Especially at the elementary level, kids need to get out and run
around," panel co-chairman Robert M. Malina, PhD, tells WebMD. "It is
abnormal for a youngster to sit all day with no opportunity to use up all that