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 #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – The guest is Gary McCoy, a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations. Our focus is the injury pandemic in baseball, what’s causing it and how it can be fixed.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Episode #11 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski – Nowinski is CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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