September 5, 2012
I recently read an article that brought me back, waaay back to 2006, where I was a senior in college laboring over my senior synthesis project. The paper was on the rise of Childhood Obesity (particularly in impoverished areas of the country). Myself and my partners in the project looked at the root causes for the sudden rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes and boiled it down to three root causes – cheap and readily available low cost and high caloric foods, inadequate school nutrition and sedentary lifestyles. As a sports enthusiast, soccer player and coach, the physical activity part of the equation was most interesting to me.
I pulled up my paper from 6 years ago and even then there were some pretty astonishing statistics:
- In forty years we have increased our driving by two hundred and fifty percent (Jackson 2).
- Exercise recommendations for adolescents are 3 or more twenty-minute sessions per week. Elementary school children need a ½ hour to 1 hour of exercise on all or most days of the week. BUT in grades 1-5, only about 50% of schools require physical education. In fact, only 8% of elementary schools, 6.4% of middle/junior high schools, and 5.8% of senior high schools provide daily physical education (CDC SHPPS 2000).
- Most children in America watch 20 to 30 hours of TV per week, or an average of three to four hours a day (WA “Live outside the box”).
- People who live in “high-walkable” neighborhoods exercise on average 194.8 minutes per week, while those in “low-walkable” neighborhoods average only 130.7. Correspondingly, 60% of those living in low-walkable neighborhoods are overweight, while only 30% of those living in high-walkable neighborhoods are overweight (Frumkin 100).
It’s clear that there is a lack of activity in our country and that kids are increasingly at risk and ultimately bearing the brunt of it. From schools not offering enough sport and exercise classes to neighborhoods not building soccer, baseball, football, or lacrosse fields, much less accommodating parks and playgrounds, kids simply aren’t exercising enough. Urban design plays a major role in the amount of time families and individuals spend exercising; some communities promote walking, and some necessitate driving. Our communities need to be constructed so that the healthier choice is the easier choice.
OK, enough about my findings from 2006. The article I recently read summarizes a 2012 survey that says child inactivity is the #1 health risk according to adults across the US. The CS Mott Children’s Hospital asked adults to pinpoint their top 10 biggest health concerns for kids in the communities, and for the very 1st time “not enough exercise” was listed as #1 by 39% of the respondents. Not surprisingly, “childhood obesity” followed at #2 by 38% of the respondents. Obesity is directly linked to inactivity so you can see how these two would naturally rise to the top.
I think Matthew Davis, director of this poll on Children’s Health, sums it up well; “Child health varies across communities, and these results emphasize a need for local programs that respect and address community-specific health priorities for youth.” He also notes “adequate exercise offers many more benefits other than weight loss or preventing obesity—such as better attention and learning in school and improved sense of well-being.”
This brings me to article #2 from Medical News Today, Physically Fit Boys And Girls Score Higher On Reading And Math. “Cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys’ and girls’ grades on reading and math tests,” said the study co-author Trent Petrie, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas. I could go on for days and days about all the benefits that physical activity brings into our lives (perhaps another blog post) but I share this article as it’s a timely reminder as school kicks off this fall. Do you want your kids to get better grades this year? Sign them up for a fall sport or activity!
We all need to be committed to growing sport and exercise so that kids have more opportunities to incorporate activity into their daily lives. I recognize that it’s not easily done though and that it takes hard work and lots of effort – in most cases you need volunteers, coaches, managers, fields, uniforms, and referees. All these parts of the puzzle don’t come together overnight and take a lot of intention, planning and coordinating.
That’s why I’m most excited about my work here at Korrio. Our system that handles registration, building rosters, forming teams, running reports, background checks and concussion baseline tests, helps make the lives easier for volunteers who are doing the best they can to help kids stay active. Our communication tools also help coaches, managers and administrators coordinate faster and simpler so that daily tasks don’t have to be a burden or headache.
I truly believe that what we’re doing at Korrio can make a direct impact on combatting childhood obesity. By better serving the business or operational aspect of sport, Korrio can help give communities and families a fighting chance in improving child health and reducing obesity. Time, hassle, logistics, organization, etc. no longer has to be a barrier to entry.
We all have our strengths and contribute where we can. We’re coaches, teachers, organizers, schedulers, referees or community representatives. The more passionate we all are about doing what we can to ensure that each part of the equation is served – from behind the scenes admins to on-field coaches – the less we’ll have to see and hear about the rise in childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Let’s make it easy to start community programs. Let’s get better organized. Let’s do the most we can with our volunteer hours. Let’s see less articles about the obesity epidemic. Let’s break the trend, so that 6 years from now, I don’t have to be writing about the exact same thing.
We’re in this together! One for All. All for Sports.
Frumkin, Howard, Lawrence Frank, and Richard Jackson. Urban Sprawl and Public Health. Washington DC: Island Press, 2004.
United States. Center for Disease Control. School Health Policies and Programs Study- Physical Education and Activity. 2000. 27 April 2006
United States. Public Health Seattle and King County. Children urged to “Live outside the box”. 6 April 2006. 2 May 2006