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Exercise crucial for children’s long term health

Exercise crucial for children’s long term health

March 26, 2014

A visiting health professor and a world leader on research into school children’s physical fitness will give a public lecture about making children healthier at the University of Canterbury (UC) next week.

About 11 percent of New Zealand children up to the age of 14 are considered obese. Another 20 percent are overweight and at risk of obesity.

Professor Mike Metzler says the data on United States children is about the same and, in both countries, the rates go way up for kids at the lower socio-economic end.

"Only about 20 percent of US high school students are active more than 60 minutes each day. The latest New Zealand data will be released soon. In 2007 only about 11 percent met that standard.

"There is much concern that this will be the first generation to have a shorter average life span than their parents. Much of that is due to diseases attributable to sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits.

"My lecture will focus on what schools can do to increase children’s physical activity as advocated by the US Institute of Medicine in their 2013 report."

The US Institute of Medicine report says scheduled time in physical education alone cannot achieve the daily physical activity goal. It is imperative that all teachers, administrators and certain community agencies must be involved in working towards this goal.

Professor Metzler, a professor of physical education teacher education at Georgia State University, is regarded by his international peers as an influential leader in children’s physical health.

He is an Erskine visitor to UC. The Erskine Programme was established in 1963 following a generous bequest by former distinguished UC student John Erskine.

Physical inactivity is a key determinant of health across the lifespan. A lack of activity increases the risk of heart disease, colon and breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.

Emerging literature suggests that in terms of mortality, the global population health burden of physical inactivity approaches that of cigarette smoking. The prevalence and substantial disease risk associated with physical inactivity has been described as a pandemic, Professor Metzler says.

"The prevalence, health impact, and evidence of changeability all have resulted in calls for action to increase physical activity across the lifespan."

Professor Metzler will deliver his lecture at UC’s Dovedale Village, College of Education campus on Thursday, April 3.


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