By Ken Reed
Our children have never been more sedentary.
According to the CDC, in 2016, only 21.6 percent of children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 met the recommended 60 or more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity at least five times a week. It’s a safe bet that number is even lower today.
Moreover, while physical education and recess time continues to be cut by our schools, less than half of the children in the United States have adequate heart and lung fitness.
The overall health implications of this level of physical inactivity are certainly scary. For example, Type 2 diabetes once was considered an adult disease, hence the term “adult-onset diabetes.” However, because more kids are overweight and obese, the incidence of the disease has increased dramatically in children and adolescents.
The popular perception is that the United States is a sports-mad country. The reality is, we’re a country of passionate sports fans that, for the most part, aren’t sports participants. Adults and children need to move more and watch less. Collectively, in terms of participation in sports and other physical activities, we are a bunch of couch potatoes.
“Research has shown that lack of physical activity may be a more significant factor in contributing to childhood obesity than even bad diet,” according to Tom McMillen, former Congressman, NBA player, and current board member of the National Foundation for Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. He adds:
“Other research in adults indicates that poor fitness is a more significant predictor of death than obesity generally, diabetes and other causes. In other words, the most important thing we can do for the health of our kids is to get them up off the couch.”
Forty-five years ago, daily physical education was the norm for K-12 students. Today, according to the American Heart Association, less than five percent of elementary schools, and two percent of high schools have daily physical education class for the entire school year. In addition, nearly a quarter of our schools don’t require physical education class at all!
The problem isn’t just the decline in P.E., however. Too many of our kids are being priced out of youth sports and other physical activities. Economic and cultural differences, like income, the neighborhood a child lives in, the language spoken at home, and other factors leave too many children on the sideline.
The mound of research studies highlighting the benefits of physical activity continues to grow. Research has shown that exercise is not only good for the body, it also promotes self-esteem, and can sharpen concentration and boost academic performance. Cardiovascular-based exercise is the one thing that can actually grow brain cells.
It’s sad when as adults we choose to lead inactive lifestyles. But it’s even sadder when we don’t provide our children the opportunity to establish physically-active lifestyles when they are young.
Here’s the reality of the situation: Our children are on pace to be significantly more overweight and obese than we are by the time they reach adulthood.
If we continue to cut P.E. and recess in our schools, and neglect to effectively address economic and cultural barriers to participation in youth sports and other physical activities for a large number of our children, the physical and mental health challenges our young people will face in adulthood will be daunting.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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More Episodes on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts; PocketCasts; & Anchor
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.
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.
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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