Immigrant children may be less physically active than native us-born children


Immigrant children may be less physically active than native us-born children


In the United States, it appear that immigrant children are less physically active and less likely to play sports than children born in the United States, according to a report released on August 4, 2008 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

This is of great interest in light of the growing obesity epidemic in the US, which has extended to children as well as adults, and increases the risk of many complications including diabetes mellitus.  "Because of a dramatic increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity and diabetes mellitus during the past two decades, physical activity has assumed an increasingly prominent role in disease prevention and health promotion efforts in the United States and is considered one of the 10 leading health indicators for the nation," state the authors in the background information. As a result, the physical activity habits of children and adults in the U.S. have been increasingly monitored in an attempt to undderstand this phenomenon.

Additionally, immigrants have always been and continue to be a strong part of American culture, with 12.6% of the population presently. As a result it is important to gauge how they as a group are involved in this epidemic. The authors write: "it is important to know how patterns of physical activity, inactivity and sedentary behaviors for this increasing segment of the population differ from those of the majority native population."

To investigate this issue, Gopal K. Singh, Ph.D., of the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, M.D. and colleagues examined the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health, a data set obtained by telephone survey which measures regular physical activity, inactivity, television viewing, and sports participation in children. This study also noted nativity versus immigrant status.

In the analysis the researchers found that more than 11% of U.S. children were physically inactive, while almost 74% performed some physical activity three or more days per week. More than 42% did not participate in sports, and 17% watched 3 or more hours of television each day.

The authors did observe some diversity in the physical activity habits of children in certain ethnic-immigrant groups. They write: "For example, 22.5 percent of immigrant Hispanic children were physically inactive compared with 9.5 percent of U.S.-born white children with U.S.-born parents." Children who had immigrated were more likely to be physically inactive and less likely to participate in sports -- but they also generally watched less television, with some narrowing as children became more culturally acclimated.

In conclusion, the authors predict a worsening prognosis for immigrant children: "Given the health benefits of physical activity, continued higher physical inactivity and lower activity levels in immigrant children are likely to reduce their overall health advantage over U.S.-born populations during adulthood." They continue, calling for action, saying, "To reduce disparities in childhood physical activity, health education programs designed to promote physical activity should target not only children from socially disadvantaged households and neighborhoods but also children in immigrant families."

High Levels of Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviors Among US Immigrant Children and Adolescents

Gopal K. Singh, PhD; Stella M. Yu, ScD, MPH; Mohammad Siahpush, PhD; Michael D. Kogan, PhD

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(8):756-763.

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