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Health Capsules
September 2008
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Children’s Physical Activity Drops

Physical activity levels dropped sharply in a large group of American children between ages 9 and 15, according to a new study. By the age of 15, most failed to reach the daily recommended activity level.

A lack of physical activity in childhood raises the risk for obesity and the many health problems it can contribute to later in life, including heart disease and diabetes. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, if not all, days.

To see whether children are meeting these recommendations, an NIH-funded team recorded the activity of more than 800 9-year-olds for about a week. The kids’ activity levels were measured again at 11, 12 and 15.

At ages 9 and 11, more than 90% of the children met the recommended level of activity. By age 15, however, only 31% met the recommended level on weekdays, and only 17% met it on weekends.

This research highlights the need for action by families, communities, schools, health care systems and governments to help encourage physical activity as children get older.

“Whenever possible, parents could encourage family walks with their children,” said study leader Dr. Philip Nader at the University of California at San Diego. “Even walking for as few as 15 minutes a day would provide health benefits. On weekends, family outings could be centered on longer walks or biking.”

Links iconWeb Sites

We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition)

2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Physical Activity Recommendations for Young People (CDC site)

  Diabetes and a Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of great excitement and anticipation. It also can be a time of anxiety, especially for women with diabetes. A new, easy-to-read booklet has information to help women with diabetes have safe, healthy pregnancies.

If you have diabetes and are pregnant, your pregnancy is automatically considered high risk. That doesn’t mean you’ll have problems, but it does mean you need to pay special attention to your health. Millions of high-risk pregnancies produce perfectly healthy babies without the mom’s health being affected.

Pregnancy causes a number of changes in your body, so even if you’ve had diabetes for years, you may need to make changes in your meal plan, physical activity routine and medications. In addition, your needs might change as you get closer to your delivery date.

The booklet For Women with Diabetes: Your Guide to Pregnancy includes information about checking and controlling blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active and taking tests and diabetes medications during pregnancy. It stresses the importance of planning and getting blood glucose levels under control before pregnancy.

The new booklet is available online at pregnancy. A Spanish-language version will be available soon. To order a free print copy, go to, call 1–800–860–8747 or write to NDIC at 1 Information Way, Bethesda MD 20892–3560.


Links iconFeatured Web Site

NIDA Goes Back to School

This site provides free science-based publications and teaching materials for grades K-12 about the consequences of drug abuse on the brain and the body. The resources are designed for children, teens and the adults who influence them, including teachers, curriculum developers, science department heads, school nurses, counselors, gym teachers and others.

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