Researchers looking at sports as cure for childhood obesity

You can keep your kids healthy for life, and they don't even need to leave homeroom.

If you think Taco Bell and the internet have turned your kid's belly into blubber, you're not alone.

Studies show up to one-third of all children and teens are now obese. Researchers say they may have found the cure.

All that energy before the big game may have its roots at recess.

"You just sign up and hang out and play with your friends,” Kiera Turner said.

Kiera Turner is finally coming out of her shell.

"I got to show more of my athletic side to people,” Kiera said.

North Carolina researchers say kids who participate in sports at a young age, play for life. Their study found 21 percent of sixth grade girls don't get their recommended one-hour daily workout time. Zero percent of eighth grade girls pass that test.

"Knowing that a student is comfortable playing sports really translates into playing sports over a lifetime,” Dr. Jonathan Casper, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism at North Carolina State University said.

"The intramural sport model has the capacity to get many more kids involved,” Dr. Jason Bocarro, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism at North Carolina State University said.

Studies show most kids who stop playing sports do so between sixth and eighth grades. Sixty-eight percent of those kids want to play sports, but don't have the resources or time. Seventy percent of kids who quit before high school never play again. Kids who don't stay fit often stay that way as adults.

"I have more energy than I would if I was trying out because I'd be so nervous,” Kiera said.

Kiera's chance to play means more athletics, every day. If her peers do the same, the U.S. may curb the 300,000 yearly deaths caused by weight gain.

"I don't like standing still, or like being in a closed environment for a long time,” Kiera said.

Thanks to a simple opportunity, she doesn't have to.

The two-year-long study from North Carolina State University Researchers Bocarro and Casper also shows kids who play sports have more confidence in social situations. Beyond that, people who play a wide variety of sports as kids are more likely to keep playing those sports as adults.

SPORTS: PLAY YOUNGER, PLAY LONGER

OBESITY IN CHILDREN: Currently, the United States has developed into a society of increased food intake and physical inactivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity is working to create state programs to help curb the ever growing rate of obesity. According to emedicinehealth.com, obesity has become the most widespread medical problem affecting young children in the United States. The American Obesity Association claims 15 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years-old and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years-old, are obese in America. Obesity in children is a major health risk in the child's development. Obesity can create many social problems for young children as well as emotional problems. Studies indicate that obese children will most likely become obese adults as well. On average, according to the CDC, one in seven pre-school aged children is obese. Children aged 2 to 4 have also shown increased obesity rates from 12.4 percent in 1998 to 14.6 percent in 2008.

OBESITY IN ADULTS: In 2008, only one state, Colorado, had less than 20 percent obesity rates, according to the CDC. Thirty-two states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25 percent. A 2008 Bloomberg Business Week article claims that adult obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980. Two-thirds of adults are now considered overweight. With obesity so comes hypertension, which is a prevalent condition in obese adults. Currently the cost of health care for obese adults exceeds $61- billion annually.

STUDY RESULTS: An online study performed by researchers Jason Bocarro and Jonathan Casper of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, included almost 2,500 children. They examined the children's attitudes towards sports and physical activities, what sports they were involved in and how they felt about themselves (self-esteem). The results demonstrated that many middle school children's level of involvement in physical activities significantly dropped. Furthermore, 68 percent of the children said they wish they were more active in sports and physical activities. More survey results confirmed that those children who were more active reported lower barriers. These children were offered more opportunities to participate in community sports. Research has also shown that those children who are offered more opportunities, especially for community involvement, demonstrate higher intentions to continue playing sports. More importantly, children who participate in sports and stay involved report a higher feeling of being accepted by others.

For More Information, Contact:
Jason N. Bocarro, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management
North Carolina State University
(919) 513-8025
jnbocarro@ncsu.edu


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