Thursday, July 22, 2010

Preventing Obesity, Part Two: The Role of Physical Activity

My previous blog described how my 19-year-old son gained 40 pounds during his first year out of high school, even though he was enrolled in a supervised post-high school program for young adults with learning differences. One reason for his weight gain was a significant decline in physical activity.

My son played organized basketball throughout most of his school years. At his high school, he played organized team sports—soccer, basketball, and softball—throughout the school year. Once out of high school, he was unable to locate an arena for team sports. Like many young adults with special needs, my son, when left on his own, tends to stay in his apartment playing electronic games and watching TV. His post-high school program did not deliver on its promises to facilitate group physical activity.

In June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that students with disabilities participate in athletics at consistently lower rates than students without disabilities. School officials across the nation indicated a lack of information on ways to expand athletic opportunities, a lack of clarity regarding schools’ responsibilities to provide such opportunities, and budget constraints. The GAO report is titled Students with Disabilities: More Information and Guidance Could Improve Opportunities in Physical Education and Athletics (GAO-10-519, June 23, 2010). GAO recommends that the U.S. Department of Education facilitate information sharing among states and schools in order to promote PE for students with disabilities.

Everyone needs regular physical activity. Our colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fund the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability. NCPAD states: "Indoor or outdoor, recreational or competitive, solo or team, easy or intensive, NCAPD has the resources, contacts, and assistance you need." I have worked with the NCPAD executive director for several years, and he is passionate about helping people with disabilities to be physically active.

NCAPD’s slogan is “Exercise is for EVERY body.” There are substantial health benefits to be gained from participating in regular physical activity. The CDC recommends that we examine the National Physical Activity Plan, which was produced by a private-public sector collaboration to promote physical activity in American life.

This is the second in a series of CHADD CEO blogs on preventing obesity and the relationship between obesity and disability.


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