California students getting fitter with age?
PALO ALTO, California — According to multiple 2015 data sets now available on Kidsdata.org, California students are showing improved fitness outcomes as they age.
First, more students are able to meet physical fitness standards as they rise between 5th, 7th, and 9th grades. In 2015, 26 percent of the state’s 5th graders met all fitness standards, compared with 33 percent of 7th graders and 38 percent of 9th graders. The upward trend was consistent across all races and ethnicities.
Second, younger students showed higher rates of obesity compared with older students. In 2015, 40 percent of 5th graders were overweight or obese, compared with 39 percent of 7th graders and 36 percent of 9th graders.
Overweight and obese children are at higher risk for a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, asthma and some types of cancer; they also are more likely to stay overweight or obese as adults.
In addition, children with obesity are at increased risk for joint and bone problems, sleep apnea and social and emotional difficulties, such as stigmatization and low self-esteem.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children and adolescents participate in moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least 60 minutes every day. However, according to a 2014 report (PDF), only about one quarter of youth nationwide get the recommended amount of exercise.
According to experts, policy options that could improve children’s physical activity include ensuring that all schools meet state physical education requirements, making school recreational facilities available for use outside of school hours, and encouraging child care and after-school programs to incorporate physical activity opportunities.
Additional recommendations that would reduce childhood obesity include providing access to affordable healthful foods and beverages, and reducing access to high-calorie and sugar-sweetened drinks and foods.
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