By Ken Reed
The common belief is that the United States is a sports-mad country. That’s not true. We’re a sports-spectator-mad country. We’re couch potatoes who much prefer watching sporting events — live or on TV — to actually participating in them.
Sadly, that’s also true for our children.
In a new study that used a standard 20-meter shuttle run to measure children’s fitness levels, the United States fell far behind the fittest countries, Tanzania, Iceland and Estonia and only above Mexico, Peru and Latvia.
The shuttle run used in the study was a typical “beep” test of aerobic fitness. The test is an exercise that requires continuous running between two lines 20 meters (66 feet) apart in time to recorded beeps. The time between beeps gets progressively shorter during the exercise and the test is over when the exerciser can no longer run the 20 meters in time with the beeps.
According to a CNN story on the study, “the typical 12-year-old American would run about 520 meters (1706 feet or 26 laps lasting 3.5 minutes) on the shuttle run before stopping, falling some 840 meters (2756 feet or 42 laps) behind the typical 12-year-old from Tanzania.”
The study highlights a serious issue facing our country: unfit school children are highly likely to remain unfit adults. And unfit adults have a significantly higher risk of developing, and dying from, “conditions like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.”
The study found that wealth inequality, the gap between rich and poor in a given country, was the strongest correlate of a country’s fitness ranking. So, there’s yet another reason why the United States’ growing gap between rich and poor is a major challenge we need to address.
Making this picture even uglier is the fact that recess time is declining in our elementary schools, and the number of physical education classes in our schools, K-12, is steadily falling. This despite an array of experts stressing more activity is crucial if kids are to achieve a healthy weight and optimal fitness levels.
The only way out is to get our kids moving on a regular basis. The Office for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on a daily basis. That includes exercises like running, biking swimming or cardio-based sports like basketball and soccer.
Parents and local community organizations need to get more creative in developing a variety of ways to get children moving. Moreover, our education system needs to lead the way with more recess and cardiovascular-based PE. Schools also need to offer more before-and-after-school recreation activities, including intramural sports programs in which all kids can play, not just elite athletes. And movement-based learning initiatives, throughout the entire school day, need to become the norm.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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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