A new study from the CDC reports that over the last 10 years, regardless of a family’s economic status, our nation’s young people have become increasingly unfit every year over the last 10 years.
A small, yet hidden example of why this is happening, occurred yesterday when my son Carl came home and complained that he couldn’t get one of his friends out to play. Instead, his neighborhood pal was entranced inside a game of Mindcraft, victim of the alluring temptation to stay inside in front of the screen rather than venture outside into a literally perfect day of summer.
This fact, along with a variety of other factors, are leading to an unfit youth population. It seems every day we hear another story about the perils of childhood overweight and obesity and the adolescent diabetes that often results. All of which begins, with a lack of movement and a general lack of willingness to go outside and play. A problem that is apparently getting worse. This is a disturbing trend for which me must find a solution. Parents, schools and anyone else with an influence on younger individuals have an important responsibility to help find ways to motivate kids to move more and sit less.
The facts here are disturbing. The minimum recommendation for physical activity for kids is an hour per day. However, less than a third of kids today are getting at least an hour a day of physical activity. Previous research looked more closely at the amounts of physical activity kids were getting and found that in most cases the volume of physical activity kids were getting was peeking by the age of 10 and sometimes as low as the age of two. What we didn’t know is exactly how this was affecting the fitness levels of our children. This new study took a closer look at that.
Today, trends show that the majority of kids today are spending 8 to 10 hours in front of the screen. With those times peeking and even increasing above those numbers during summertime when they’re out of school. Which is essentially what was happening yesterday when Carl tried to entice his friend outside, and was unsuccessful.
For this new study, researchers from the CDC turned to NHANES data. NHANES OR the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey is a collection of long-term data on the health habits of Americans. As reported by The New York Times during this investigation, C.D.C. scientists expanded on the usual annual NHANES telephone questioning by inviting some respondents to visit a mobile physiology lab for more extensive physical testing. In 2012, they recruited a group of about 450 boys and girls ages 12 to 15 representing a variety of ethnic groups and socioeconomic circumstances.
Researchers compared the fitness levels of these kids to benchmarks recently set by the CDC. Unfortunately what they found, was that very few of these young individuals fell into what is known as the ” healthy fitness zone.” Overall only about 42% of the young individuals fell into this healthy fitness zone. That number was even lower for girls at 34%, while about 50% of the boys found themselves in this “healthy fitness zone.”
As stated before, the results were not contingent upon income level or poverty status. In other words children from affluent families were just as unfit as children from families below the poverty line. Probably the most disturbing finding, however, was the fact that fitness level overall over the last 10 years has decreased at a rate of 10%, or 1% per year. Hence, in spite of the well-known facts about how unhealthy our kids are becoming, and the problem of increased rates of type two diabetes, resulting in shorter lifespans then their parents, we have not made any progress in helping to make kids more fit. In fact, the opposite is true.
More exercise and More parental involvement!
If you have children, you can no longer avoid physical activity, because YOU set the example. It’s one thing if you’re making a choice not be physically fit yourself. Still unacceptable in my opinion, but still your choice. It’s completely another when this attitude and belief system affects your children in such negative ways.
One strategy I’ve implemented recently in my own family is to invest in the Jawbone Up 24 constant activity tracker for both myself and my kids. This unique device has increased awareness in our household immensely around good nutrition and exercise. Tune in to the Fitness Friday segment in two weeks for part 2 of this topic where I will detail how and why implementing a system like the Jawbone Up24 can help you and your kids increase your awareness and as a result, your fitness levels.