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EDUCATION | THE RESEARCH FILE

Whether Its Homework or TV, Fewer Children are Exercising

July 16, 1997

Midruff bulge afflicting little Tommy or Susie? A study shows that more American children are overweight than ever--and, if you ask them, homework may be to blame.

The study by the International Life Sciences Institute, based on a poll by Louis Harris and Associates, found that fewer than one in four students in grades four through 12 exercise every day. More than half of those children who are anti-physical-fitness blamed a lack of time . . . and too much homework.

But ask their parents for the reason and the answers were quite different: Two out of three said children are couch potatoes because they are disinterested in calorie-burning activity or prefer the sedentary stimulation of TV, video games and computers.

"Daily physical activity for children needs to become a priority for parents equal to that of buckling seat belts," said James O. Hill, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and chairman of a nutrition project supported by the institute.

Hill said parents also need to demand that schools make recreation part of the daily schedule.

According to the study, 14% of children ages six to 11, and 12% of adolescents--those from 12 to 17--are overweight. That is up from about 5% to 7% in both groups during the 1970s.

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