Featured in: Children's Health  |  June 27, 2016

Get on Your Feet

Encouraging childhood fitness to prevent obesity, allergies, and infections.

Let’s Move, First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity, strives to put children on the path to a healthier future during their earliest months and years. One component that helps shape healthier habits for children is getting them to engage in physical activity on a regular basis.

According to Let’s Move, for kids and teens (that’s anyone between six and 17 years old); physical activity goals should be as follows:

Be active for 60 minutes a day, at least five days a week, for six out of eight weeks. As an alternative, kids can count their daily activity steps using a pedometer (girls’ goal: 11,000; boys’ goal: 13,000).

For adults (that’s anyone aged 18 and older), physical activity goals should be as follows:

Be active for 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week, for six out of eight weeks. As an alternative, adults can count their daily activity steps using a pedometer (goal: 8,500).

During the warmer months of the year, physical activity should be even easier to incorporate into daily routines. Getting up and going outside with family and friends, and staying active by going for a walk, riding a bike, playing a sport or just running around the yard – are all simple and great ways to keep the whole family active and healthy.

The more time children spend outside, the more vitamin D they’ll absorb from the sun. Where vitamin D absorption is concerned, there may even be a correlation between sedentary children who remain indoors, and more active/healthier kids who play outdoors. Either way, an increase in activity can only help combat the challenge of rising childhood obesity rates in the U.S. And an increase in vitamin D absorption could also help diminish the prevalence of allergies and infections in children.

Obesity tends to make allergies more prevalent and harder to control in children – and vitamin D deficiency may explain why.

A research team led by Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, studied 86 youngsters between the ages of 10 and 18. Those who were obese were all found to be vitamin D-deficient.

The researchers found linkages between D levels and those of hormones produced by fat cells and those of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), an immune-system component that regulates allergic reactions.

“This is the first study that ties together the relationship of vitamin D deficiency and increased allergy risk and severity in obese and overweight adolescents,” study leader Candace Percival, MD, told a recent meeting of The Endocrine Society.

A group of Colombian scientists found an association among children between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of gastrointestinal and ear infections.

This team measured D levels in 475 preteens and followed them for an academic year. Ten percent of the youngsters were D-deficient; another 47% had lower-than-normal levels. Deficiency was associated with increased rates of earache with fever, and diarrhea with vomiting. Results were reported in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

So get outside this summer – and get moving. Keep your kids active and your family healthy!

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