Physical Activity in Low Income Families

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Regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status, physical activity is important for physical, mental, and emotional health. There are numerous benefits of physical activity including: weight control, decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased risk of type two diabetes, decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, decreased risk of some cancers, strengthening of bones and muscles, improved mental health and mood, improved ability to perform activities of daily living, increased life span, and many more. Physical activity can be found in many forms, from going on a walk, jog, or run to participation in organized sport. The type of physical activity is not the focus, but rather the frequency of participation. Daily participation in physical activity is essential, especially for children.

Many schools have recently struggled to implement daily physical education programs for all students due to the high demands of academic achievement. These schools are not offering comprehensive physical education programs, but are only offering the class once a week. Due to low standardized testing scores in math, English, and science, schools feel that it is justified to cut back on the frequency of physical education sessions. In children, it has been shown that physical activity is essential for mental, physical and emotion development (Greenberg and Silvestri, 2007). Due to the decrease in physical education sessions available in school, community based organizations are needed to offer after-school and weekend programs so that children are able to reach the recommended levels of daily physical activity (Greenberg and Silvestri, 2007).

Even with community based organizations available, low-income families may continue to struggle to reach the daily recommended levels of physical activity. These organizations are often fee-based or are too expensive for low-income families to afford. Programs such as 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Title V funds, or Title 2, and United Way programs are free of charge and often include nutritious after-school snacks for children. These programs are designed to serve the youth through federal and state grants, or even local funding (Greenberg and Silvestri, 2007). These programs are available and accessible, you just have to research. In 1997, Johnson-Down, O'Loughlin, Koski, and Gray-Donald published “High Prevalence of Obesity in Low Income and Multiethnic Schoolchildren: A Diet and Physical Activity Assessment” in The Journal of Nutrition. The objective of the study was to assess the prevalence of obesity and under-nutrition, as well as evaluate the diet and activity patterns among children from ethnically diverse low-income urban populations. Children between the ages of nine and twelve who were students in low-income neighborhoods were studied. Johnson-Down, O'Loughlin, Koski, and Gray-Donald measured height, weight, dietary intake, physical activity, lifestyle, and demographic characteristics. The results indicated no evidence of under-nutrition, yet 39.4% of the students were underweight. The conclusion was that children who participated in more physical activity had significantly higher intakes of calcium, iron, zinc, and fiber, but were not heavier. In 1998, Wendell, Baranowski, and Young published “Physical Activity Interventions in Low-Income, Ethnic Minority, and Populations with Disability” in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. They were aware that low-income, as well as the other groups they observed, are more likely to be sedentary compared to the general population. In response to this knowledge, there have been interventions for inactivity targeted to these at-risk populations. Wendell, Baranowski, and Young did searches (manual and computer) to identify works published between the years 1983 and 1997. They looked at the physical activity interventions conducted in the at-risk populations. Activity and cardiorespiratory fitness were the outcome measurements...