Physical Activity Message For Parents From New Survey: No More Excuses

July 01, 1997

Washington, DC, July 1, 1997. More than half of all children who say they don't get enough physical activity blame lack of time or homework, according to a new survey. But two out of three parents who say their youngsters don't get enough activity point to a lack of interest or competition from TV, video games, and computers as the real reasons.

The survey, conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, was commissioned by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). ILSI launched a new Physical Activity and Nutrition Program (PAN) in 1996 in partnership with the National Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program is a response to the alarming increase in childhood obesity in recent years.

The survey revealed that fewer than one out of four youngsters (4th to 12th grades) get vigorous physical activity every day of the week. One out of four do not attend any school physical education classes, and only one out of three get physical education every school day.

"Daily physical activity for children needs to become a priority for parents equal to that of buckling seat belts," says James O. Hill, Ph.D., chairman of the PAN Advisory Committee and professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "Adopting a 'no more excuses' attitude when a child pleads lack of time is an important beginning. Furthermore, parents need to demand that schools put the fourth R back into their curriculum: Recreation needs to be added to Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic."

The national telephone survey, conducted in September-October 1996, sampled 1,504 parents and a child in the same family and is believed to be the first to provide such family-linked data on physical activity. Designed to identify predictors of activity levels in children and to examine the role of the family in shaping behaviors, the survey revealed that involvement by parents is a powerful influence on total weekly physical activity.

According to Hill, "Survey data amount to a call to action for parents, schools and communities. Lack of physical activity is a major reason why children's obesity levels are at all-time highs." Furthermore, parents who say they are very overweight are far more likely to have an obese child. Three out of ten obese children have parents who describe themselves as overweight.

Increased physical activity benefits children in many ways: increased fitness contributes to healthy growth and development, and healthy physical activity habits can benefit them throughout their lives.

Hill pointed out that the good news from the survey was that parents are willing to help their kids say "yes" to physical activity. There is genuine interest among parents and children in volunteering to bring physical activity opportunities to families and communities. Probably most significant is that public school facilities (playgrounds, gyms, swimming pools, etc.) are underutilized physical assets and that parents and older children are willing to volunteer in helping turn community schools into recreational centers during nonschool hours--afternoon, evening, weekend and summer.

This is ironic, says Hill, because 9 out of 10 youngsters who do participate in physical education classes say they enjoy the activity and 7 out of 10 say they get a good workout.

The next priority for the PAN program is testing community intervention strategies by utilizing findings from the study in community intervention projects. The first such project is being planned in collaboration with an ongoing community effort in Denver.

Other organizations already working to increase physical activity and/or improve nutrition have expressed interest in the new data and are enthusiastic about future cooperative efforts.


NOTE TO EDITORS: Other findings of the survey and recommendations for action are available upon request.

The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a nonprofit, worldwide foundation established in 1978 to advance the understanding of scientific issues related to nutrition, food safety, toxicology, risk assesment and the environment.

The ILSI web site can be accessed at

The International Food Information Council Foundation was founded in 1991 to be a force that helps the media, educators, health professionals and scientists effectively communicate science-based information relating to health, nutrition and food safety for the public good.

IFIC materials can be accessed at

International Food Information Council Foundation

Related Physical Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Physical activity in the morning could be most beneficial against cancer
The time of day when we exercise could affect the risk of cancer due to circadian disruption, according to a new study with about 3,000 Spanish people  

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.

Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.

Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Read More: Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to