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Physical Activity Is A Family Value, Dr. Koop Says

Washington, DC: May 2, 1996 -- As part of his anti-obesity campaign called Shape Up America!, Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former U.S. Surgeon General, has some words of wisdom for American families battling a sedentary lifestyle and bigger waistlines: turn off the television and the computer games and make physical activity a family affair.

Reacting to a new survey which finds that child care responsibilities are interfering with the efforts of families to get more exercise, Dr. Koop went to leading physical activity experts and such professional athletes as Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys and Bobby Bonilla of the Baltimore Orioles for practical advice on ways to get the entire family moving and having fun. According to these authorities, the solution starts with the commitment of parents to spend more time being active with their children. This can be as simple as everyone taking the family pet for a walk or going on a family grocery shopping trip.

"When we talk about family values, we seem to overlook the importance of physical activity as a healthy way that the family can spend time together," said Dr. Koop. "Unless parents recognize that physical activity is important for the health of the whole family, everyone will pay the price in terms of obesity and an increased risk of disability and disease."

Although the consequences of inactivity are sobering, Dr. Koop’s approach stresses just the opposite: family fitness fun. Recognizing that enjoyment is strongly related to people of all ages becoming and remaining physically active, Dr. Koop worked with physical activity experts to publish a new brochure that provides a range of ideas for family fitness in the home, at school, in the workplace, and even in the backyard. Called "99 Tips for Family Fitness Fun," this new guide gives parents practical advice, such as these tips from some of the leading professional athletes:

Schedule a regular time throughout the week for physical activity -- Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys

Run, jog, and walk as a family -- Paula Newby-Fraser, seven-time Ironman winner

Buy toys and equipment that promote physical activity -- Bobby Bonilla, Baltimore Orioles

Get off the couch -- Theo Ratliff, Detroit Pistons

A joint initiative of Shape Up America! and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), the brochure also stresses the importance of parents becoming strong advocates of daily school physical education. Specifically, the brochure urges parents to:

Meet with the child’s physical education teacher; learn about the child’s PE activities; and find out how to become involved;

Volunteer to help with physical activity events at the school;

Encourage the school physical education department to coordinate family evening and weekend activities;

Let the local school board know that physical education should be a priority at all grade levels.

Dr. Judith Young, executive director of NASPE, said: "Parents are the key ingredient in making sure that schools provide appropriate experiences for children to develop physical fitness and physical competence. As a result, parents need to take as much interest in a child’s physical education activities as in their academic coursework."

Dr. Koop’s impetus for publishing the brochure is a survey of 1599 urban residents which reveals that regardless of income, childcare responsibilities have become an obstacle to getting more physical activity. Conducted for Shape Up America! by Yankelovich Partners, Inc., the survey finds that one in three respondents say they do not have anyone in the household to watch the children, which prevents them from getting more activity outside the home.

The survey further provides new evidence that adults who are more sedentary are also more overweight. Using television watching habits as an indicator, the survey finds that overweight individuals watch more hours of television a day than their counterparts who are not overweight. For adults in the lowest income group ($15,000 a year or less), non-overweight adults watched 3.5 hours of television compared to overweight individuals who watched 4.6 hours. Among adults making $25,000 a year or less, those at a healthy weight watched 3.1 hours of TV and those classified as overweight watched 4.3 hours. Even at the higher income levels ($25,000 and above), the difference between non-over weight and overweight people was significant: 2 hours compared to 2.5 hours respectively.

According to Dr. Barbara J. Moore, President of Shape Up America!, "The findings from this survey are a wake-up call to all Americans. Turning off the television and getting the family more physically active are the best ways to keep off unwanted pounds and for everyone to stay healthy."

Along with experts from the National Association of Sport and Physical Education, Dr. Koop called on three national authorities in physical activity for help in writing the brochure: Steven Blair of the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research; Bess Marcus with the Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI; and James Rippe with the Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Koop also enlisted the advice of: Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys; baseball star Mike Piazza of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Paula Newby-Fraser, seven-time Ironman winner; Bobby Bonilla of the Baltimore Orioles; and Theo Ratliff of the Detroit Pistons.

"99 Tips for Family Fitness Fun" was published in part with a grant from the MET-Rx Foundation for Health Enhancement.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) is the only national association dedicated to strengthening and disseminating knowledge about sport and physical education to professionals and the general public. NASPE represents over 25,000 professionals and students in the field of sport and physical education.

Shape Up America! is the national campaign spearheaded by Dr. C. Everett Koop to evaluate healthy weight and increased physical activity as priority concerns. A nationwide network supported by over 40 organizations, representing the leading associations in the fields of medicine, public health, nutrition, and physical activity, provide support for the campaign to reach a variety of key audiences.