Is Physical Inactivity the New Normal?

  • Do you walk less than you used to? 
  • Do you watch more television? 
  • Do you spend more time at the computer?
  • Are you getting older and moving less?*
  • Do you drive your kids to school even though they could walk or ride their bikes? 
  • Is your job more sedentary than it used to be? 
  • Do you keep your kids inside because you don’t feel safe letting them play outside?
  • Do your kids prefer being inside so much that you have to force them outside?
Dr. Jane Greenberg

Dr. Jane Greenberg

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are part of a scary international trend toward less activity. Since 1970, physical activity has dropped 32 percent in the United States and this trend is happening all over the world. For example, in 1969, 40% of students walked or biked to school. By 2001 only 13% of children walked or biked to school. Couple that with increasing use of computers and gadgets and it’s no surprise that some kids are gaining weight. According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

In my day, there was usually one child in a classroom that was overweight, now it’s common.** The health ramifications of this are huge, especially in minority populations. Kids are at risk of heart disease, diabetes and other preventable diseases at earlier and earlier ages. 

Dr. Jane Greenberg, the District Director of Physical Education and Health Literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, shared these statistics at the Healthy Living Summit.

Students learn to sail in the Miami-Dade School District as part of physical education classes.

To address this problem, Dr. Greenberg has transformed how physical education looks in Miami Dade public schools. In addition to the usual menu of track, volleyball and soccer, students can choose from kayaking, sailing, snowshoeing on the beach, dance revolution, yoga, and lessons in nutrition. Some schools have exercise equipment where kids use technology to get fit. Since schools have no money, Greenberg created corporate partnerships to fund the programs.

I love this and the kids do too.

We have to engage kids where they are at and come up with new solutions to get kids moving. While I truly believe that getting outside is the best form of exercise, it is unrealistic to think that this will work for all kids. Integrating technology with exercise makes a lot of sense.

We need to recognize that our culture makes it harder to be active. And, we need to realize that getting kids active is only part of the problem.  Parents also need help. Dr. Greenberg said that kids with active parents are 5 times more likely to be active as adults. Adults have a responsibility to their kids and need to get healthy themselves.

*Lest you get too depressed about these statistics, do keep in mind that much of the decrease in activity is due to our aging population. However, that still doesn’t excuse us from what’s happening to our kids.
** There is an upside to the obesity problem; Kids are less likely to get teased for their weight when more kids have the same issue.

You can find Diane gearing up for Bike for Life at the Goodman Community Center. What are you doing to reverse this trend?  

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