By Ken Reed
Research coming out the American Heart Association conference on Tuesday revealed a depressing picture: Worldwide, kids are slower and less fit today than their parents were when they were young.
“It makes sense,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician. “We have kids that are less active than before.”
Researchers examined 50 studies involving cardiovascular fitness and endurance. The studies were done on children ages 9 to 17 in 28 countries from 1964 to 2010. Overall, the researchers concluded that today’s kids are 15 percent less fit than their parents were. The negative changes were very similar for boys and girls.
“We are currently facing the most sedentary generation of children in our history,” said Sam Kass, head of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program.
To put the findings in perspective, it takes today’s children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their parents did 30 years ago. Overall, heart-related fitness has dropped about five percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.
There are many reasons for the findings, but they all revolve around the increasingly sedentary lifestyles our children lead today. Kids spend too much time on the couch with smartphones, iPads, computers, video games and television shows. Bicycles for kids are becoming a thing of the past (How many bike racks do you see at schools today?). Due to safety concerns, many parents don’t let their kids play outside, unless they’re confined to ever-shrinking backyards.
However, one of the major reasons for the poor physical state of our children is the decline in physical education. Once part of a daily school routine, many kids don’t have physical education class at all anymore in our school systems. Many educators point to the academic pressures they face from the No Child Left Behind law and the annual academic assessment exams prevalent in virtually every state. Nevertheless, research consistently shows that fit kids perform better academically, have fewer behavioral problems, and are healthier overall. Thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise will improve test performance more than an extra half-hour of seat time in a math or science class.
These research findings cry out for daily, cardiovascular-based, physical education for all our children in grades K-12. If we avoid that path, our nation’s healthcare costs for obesity-related diseases such as diabetes will skyrocket in the coming decades.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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