Join the School Years Fit Generation: Fight the Obesity Crisis
What parents can do to improve their family's health and fitness, and fight the nation's childhood obesity crisis
We're starting a new revolution, and we want you and your kids to be part of it! Childhood obesity is sweeping our nation, and it's time to fight back. The best part? Change is 100% possible. This month we kick off the first of a new three-step program aimed at one thing only: getting kids healthy for life!
Quick: What is your kid doing this very moment? Is she out riding her bike? Off at soccer practice? Doing cartwheels in the backyard? Or is she stretched out on the couch, watching TV? If it's something active, awesome! If she's like the average American child, odds are the only thing that's getting a good, regular workout is her remote-control thumb. It's a well-established fact: Kids are far less fit these days.
"One in two grade-schoolers can't do a single pull-up, and aerobic-fitness scores are dismayingly poor," says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at Quincy College, in Quincy, MA. "And the health consequences of not being active are apparent everywhere. Seventeen percent of the kids in our country now qualify as obese. We have grade-schoolers who already have fatty streaks in their arteries." The situation is so serious that First Lady Michelle Obama has just launched the "Let's Move!" campaign, which aims to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. Ambitious? Sure. Crucial? Absolutely.
For the record, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children 5 and older get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. You might think your kid is getting about that much, but research shows that's probably not the case. And according to a recent National Institutes of Health study, the older kids get, the more sedentary they become.
"Young kids don't have to entertain themselves by going out to play anymore. They have multiple TV networks aimed at them. They can text. They can tweet. They can play video games. And all these things contribute to lack of activity," says Russell Pate, Ph.D., director of the Children's Physical Activity Research Group at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Adds Kenneth Cooper, M.D., founder and chairman of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas: "We tend to focus on the obesity epidemic, but there's also an epidemic of kids not getting enough exercise. Children now spend sixty percent more time watching TV and playing video games than they do learning in the classroom. That's an awful lot of couch time!" And with P.E. being slashed, the one bit of guaranteed exercise in a kid's day is disappearing as well.
So Parenting is issuing a call to action. Literally. Because the truth is that you can change things for your child and set her up for a fitter, healthier future -- starting today. "The first step is for us to adopt a firm belief that being sedentary is not okay. And then act on it," says Pate. "I hope soon we'll feel about this issue the way we do about tobacco use: that it's not healthy, acceptable behavior -- and it should be strongly discouraged." So, for the next three months, we will be offering you all the info and ammo you need to get your child revved up. Because, our experts note, not only is this the time in a kid's life when things like movement skills develop and bone density peaks, but if being active doesn't become a regular habit now, chances are it never will.
The good news is that once kids do start getting regular exercise, the benefits are quick to come. A study Dr. Cooper conducted found that in just ten weeks, inactive kids improved their overall fitness level by 70 percent. Let's all get moving in the right direction now!