Monday, May 19, 2014

U.S Kids Failing Fitness Report Card

Is the Internet, parents’ busy schedules and a lack of walking/biking to school causing American children to be less fit?

“Only one quarter of children aged 6 to 15 meet the current guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day,” said Dr. Russell R. Pate, chairman of the non-profit National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) Alliance, which issued the first U.S. report card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.
The report is based on public data and provides a snapshot of the state of youth physical activity in America. The 2014 grades were the worst yet.

NPAP evaluated 10 key indicators, from overall physical activity to organized sports participation, and the number of children who cycle or walk to school. It found that since 1969, the proportion of elementary and middle-school students walking or cycling to school dropped from 47.7% to 12%.
Additionally, “Kids who come from higher incomes are participating (in sports),” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and chairman of the research committee that issued the report card.  “Lower economic groups are not participating. There’s a lot more work to do to make these activities available to everyone.”

How can parents encourage their children to be physically fit while celebrating the beautiful spring weather and having fun with low-cost activities?  Play outdoors.  I believe that parents need to make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family.  The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime.” 
Here are a few ideas that I love and suggest to the parents of the children who attend my fitness facility, Fitness for Health:

    • Reenact Wimbledon using homemade racquets.  Bend a wire hanger into an oval, cover the oval using old pantyhose, and then duct tape a wooden paint stirrer to create a handle.  Crumple a used piece of paper to create the “ball” or “birdie” and play tennis in your own yard.
    • Go bowling in your yard.  Before you recycle, gather empty water or juice bottles to use as pins.  Add a ball and you’ve created a personal bowling alley!
    • Play baseball using a homemade bat.  Wash and dry an empty 2-liter bottle. To make the bat more durable, use an18-inch wooden rod or a stick.  Place the rod in bottle and duct tape the remaining portion of the rod to the bottle opening. Use with Wiffle balls, wadded socks, crumpled paper – anything you can imagine!
Families need to work – and play – together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships.  With an integrated, team-building approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem – and help families bond. 

To learn about fun, fitness programs designed specifically for children and teenagers, visit or call 301-231-7138 to schedule a free tour of Fitness for Health’s children’s fitness facility.

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