WASHINGTON -- Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski told Congress on Wednesday that childhood obesity levels in the U.S. are "startling" and that kids need to get more exercise to help stem the epidemic.
Jaworski, a current Monday Night Football analyst, testified on behalf of both his United Way Jaws Youth Fund in New Jersey and NFL Play 60, a league campaign that encourages youth to be active for at least 60 minutes per day.
"Gimme 60 minutes!" Jaworski said, making his points in the same animated way that he dissects a blitz on TV. "I'm not saying take four hours a day, but find a way to get off the couch and gimme that 60 minutes."
Jaworski spoke at a House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee hearing, along with witnesses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatricians, among others. They painted a dire picture in which about one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
"The facts surrounding childhood obesity in this country are startling," Jaworski told the panel.
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, said he was concerned that some parents and kids might think that only structured, team-oriented sports are worthwhile.
Jaworski said that while the name NFL Play 60 might sound like a team-oriented campaign, "It's real simple: 60 minutes. It could be a walk in the park, it could be a ride on your bicycle. It does not have to be an organized team activity. ... Be as creative as you want, but find a way to get your exercise in."
Jaworski posed with some lawmakers for photos and signed autographs for staffers.
In an interview, Jaworski said he has been involved in the issue since 1989, when he fought a proposal in New Jersey to stop requiring gym classes in public high schools.
"At that time, all the computer games were coming into play and the term 'couch potato' was coming into play," Jaworski said. "Kids weren't getting activity. They need activity to be productive."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press