DEAR ABBY: Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate, with almost 13 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds affected. With more gadgets to occupy our time on the couch and entertainment at our fingertips with the push of a button, as well as a cornucopia of fast foods with high fat content readily available, we need a family program of regular exercise and basic nutrition for children.
Youngsters should get at least 35 to 60 minutes of walking or other exercise each day to build the strong bones they'll need later in life. Between the ages of 10 and 18, children build bone mass that must last a lifetime. Weight-bearing exercises such as running, jumping, dancing or hiking help to make bones stronger while they are growing.
Without adequate bone mass, conditions such as osteoporosis, which makes bones fragile and susceptible to breaking, can occur, along with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Studies show that adequate exercise has a positive effect not only on bone health but many other areas of children's well-being, including brain, social and emotional development.
This summer, one way to model good habits and encourage our kids to get up, get out and get moving is to plan active family recreation. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons nationwide urge parents to make sure children are getting adequate levels of physical activity.
Abby, with your help, we can encourage everyone to actively pursue musculoskeletal health that will last throughout a lifetime. -- VERNON T. TOLO, M.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEONS
DEAR DR. TOLO: I am pleased the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has become so vocal on this important subject. When exercise is a family activity, children are more likely to get off the couch (or computer) and become participants. Summer is the ideal time to get started.
Additional information on children's bone health is available on the academy's Web site, www.aaos.org, or call (800) 824-2663.