Is Your Child a “Coronary Time Bomb?”
Nobody wants to hear that their child is a “coronary time bomb,” yet earlier this month, visitors to CNN.com were met with that very headline.
Increased time in front of the television has combined with unhealthy eating habits to create a dangerous dynamic for children who are less active and heavier than ever before. According to the latest figures from Nielsen, children ages 6 to 11 watch more than 28 hours of television per week, while children ages 2 to 5 spend more than 32 hours per week in front of the television. Recent research published in the journal Pediatrics found that children with just one dollar in pocket change could purchase almost 400 calories worth of junk food. While limited in scope (the study focused on low-income children in Philadelphia), the study demonstrates that high calorie food is very accessible to children.
To combat childhood obesity in Anne Arundel County, AAMC recently partnered with the City of Annapolis Department of Parks and Recreation for the second year of the Mighty Milers Program. The program promotes physical activity in elementary aged students (grades 3 – 5), and this year, more than 100 children participated.
According to Ashley DeStefano, a health educator at Anne Arundel Medical Center, “Research shows that as time in front of the television increases, and physical activity and nutritional food intake decreases, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the weight of children across the United States. As these obesity rates rise, the potential that these same children will battle heart disease in the future climbs alongside them.”
In fact, a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the prevalence of overweight children and teenagers between ages 6 and 19 in our country has tripled since 1970.
Mighty Milers is one way AAMC is working to help get children more active. “Six local elementary schools across Annapolis were asked to participate in the program this year,” said DeStefano. “Community volunteers and members of the Annapolis Triathlon Club and the Annapolis Striders participated as coaches for the schools and, over the course of six weeks, we helped children work towards the ultimate goal of running a mile in under 10 minutes or less.”
AAMC conducted initial blood pressure and health screenings in the children, and found some children with high blood pressure.
“This program could be replicated anywhere, and in Anne Arundel County, consists of schools both in the suburban areas of the County, as well as in the city of Annapolis,” said DeStefano. “We’re trying to show children that exercise can be fun, that it’s important, and that it can have an impact on them when they’re older. We’re trying to avoid the negative cardiovascular impact that studies show is a very real possibility in a child’s future.”
The 2009 Mighty Milers took place at six Annapolis-area elementary schools: Annapolis, Germantown, Hillsmere, Mills-Parole, Tyler Heights and West Annapolis. For more information on the Mighty Milers, contact Ashley DeStefano in the AAMC Community Health & Wellness Office at (443) 481 – 5360.