Childhood inactivity was recently voted the #1 concern by most parents. Obesity was viewed as the #1 health concern for Americans. Clearly, the two are related. As a 43 year old mother of one daughter, I have seen firsthand how inactive our kids have become. In my own life, I grew up with active parents and I constantly played sports. When I graduated high school, I played collegiate sports. Since I was 20 years old, one of my favorite activities has been to run steps at various local high schools in the area. I have witnessed first hand the level of activity rapidly decline in many PE classes for these high schools.
When I was in middle and high school, I remember how we would run a mile or two and play sports as part of PE class. I remember having to shower after PE class because you exercised enough to truly sweat! Today, nobody plays sports in PE class any more. Very view schools have an activity that you even have to get changed for to participate. In other words, it is such a light amount of exertion that they don’t have to wear athletic clothing or shoes, and certainly don’t have to shower after.
For the last 10 years I have witnessed hundreds of PE classes at several different schools. The golden activity that is now required is to simply walk around the track. Of course, if this is too much exertion for your child, a parent can write a note excusing them from PE class altogether. I’ll be out running my steps and watch these kids, probably ages 14-16, as they slowly walk, or crawl around the track and complete the required one mile. Some remain in their flip flops, some sit out, some are texting as they walk. A couple, maybe 2 or 4 of the entire class, will be running and enjoying it. I assume these are the ones that play sports or run track, or have some sense of being healthy.
The other day I showed up at a high school near my house to do a quick workout. I figured I’d run the stadium steps for 30 minutes or so and get a good sweat. It’s the middle of July in sunny Southwest Florida so it doesn’t take long. I sometimes walk and sometimes run, kind of mixing it up to keep variety. These two young guys enter the stadium to work out about 10 minutes into my workout. As I’m going up and down, I hear the one guy tell the other guy, ‘you just run up this side and down that side and that way we won’t get in each other’s way.’
I continued to go up and down as they did their few stretches to warm up. Then they started. They busted out with a bang, running up and down at full speed. I was kind of impressed, for a second. After about 3 flights, they practically fell down with exhaustion. I think they rested for about 5 minutes, and then mustered up the strength to do 3 more flights. Again, plopped down on the steps and waited to catch their breath. The cycle continued and maybe they completed 10 flights before they left. I was still going up and down. Probably did about 40 or 50 flights. Those guys had to be about 15 years old. I am 43. I know I’m in pretty good shape, but I’m about 30 years older. Those kids should have ran circles around me.
Statistics from 2012 showed that 19.4% of children aged 6-12 were considered completely inactive. They based their conclusions on 104 activities listed. If a child did not participate in any one of the 104 activities or sports, then they were considered inactive. 19.9% of 13-17 years olds were inactive. There is no age group that scores better, so as a whole society, we are pretty inactive. 66.1% of Americans do not participate in any of the 104 activities that were listed for the study.
I have one friend who has an obese child who does no activity. I speak with her often about steps she can take and little changes she could easily make to start some progress. She is divorced and with the child going back and forth and the busy hectic schedules we carry today, I think she feels it is just too much work. Cooking the right foods and spending the time to exercise with your kids, or just making them go out and play is a battle many parents are not willing to fight. Parents do not want to say no to anything. It’s too easy to put them in front of the TV or let them play with their iPads or phones. Parents today hate conflict, they just want to give whatever their children ask, even if it means it will eventually cause problems.
When did this trend of inactivity start? Was it brought on by TV and video games? I think today there are several contributing factors, but the beginning was linked to the mid 1960’s when kids started being driven to school instead of walking. Remember the stories our grandparents and parents used to tell? I remember my mom telling me over and over how she had to walk to school 3 miles in kindergarten! In high school, she had to walk about 5 miles. This was in Ohio and it didn’t matter how cold or how much snow was on the ground. We wouldn’t think of having our kids do that today, it is way too unsafe. But that means we have to get the activity some other way.
The average weight of an American has increased by 24 lbs since 1960. In 2012, 68% of Americans were either considered overweight or obese. Americans used to be the tallest people on Earth, now we are second to Northern Europeans. Today’s children are the first generation that will have a shorter life span than their parents. This inactivity in our lives is called a ‘pandemic with far reaching health, economic, environmental, and social consequences’ by Lancet, a leading expert journal on global health.
This inactivity consumes all areas of our lives. People don’t want to walk to get their mail, or walk to their child’s bus stop. You’ll see all the cars lined up at all the bus stops and they live maybe 5 or 10 houses away. Walk to get your kids and walk back with them! I have a brand new Walmart by my house and every single time I go there, there are carts everywhere. Walmart is one of the best retailers I’ve seen for having the cart ‘garages.’ There is one in every aisle and like every 10 spaces, yet you’ll see 5 carts just sitting by a parking spot 10 feet from the cart ‘garage!’ It is ridiculous. Take your lazy self and walk the 10 feet to put the cart away!
I have a seamstress who is a Russian lady and she is 88 years old. She lives with her daughter and has her little workroom in their house. Every single day she is sewing and working and doing light housework. Because she is staying active, she stays mobile and healthy. Staying active is crucial to aging gracefully.
We have to start saying no to laziness and inactivity in our lives. We have to teach our children how to be active again, their health and ours is worth it. If you walk through a nursing home and see how the elderly become when inactivity and unhealthy living steps in, it is an awakening. With children starting to be inactive at such young ages, it will only get worse unless we take action now.
Want 20 great easy ways to help you get yourself and your kids moving today? Easy, fun, and productive. Let’s help each other get moving:
1)A family walk after dinner
2)A bike ride around the block
3)Go outside and throw a ball to each other
4)Play hide and seek outdoors
6)Bump a volleyball or play badminton
7)Have children help with vacuuming, mopping, dusting, & cleaning
8)Water/plant plants and pull weeds
9)Walk the dog
10)Have everyone help with laundry, folding and putting away, and changing bed sheets
11)Wrestle on the floor with your kids
12)Have a 15 minute tickle time
13)Create a treasure hunt and include outdoor items
14)Go to the playground/swing
15)Wash your car together
17)Run up and down your steps if you have two stories
18)Fly a kite
19)Jump on a trampoline
20)Play basketball or shoot baskets
Building quality family time while you instill an active lifestyle benefits the whole family. Just Say No to inactivity today!
Just Say No to inactivity.