The very first U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth was recently released, and let’s just say the grades weren’t something you’d want to show your parents. Overall, the grade for “overall physical activity” was a D-, a barely passing grade. Four out of the ten categories were given “incompletes,” indicating there wasn’t even enough data to give a grade. The report card stated that only 24.8 percent of 12-15 year-olds get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. A “D” was given for “sedentary behaviors.” To me, this wasn’t really a huge shock. But, the fact that kids between the ages of 6-19 spend 424 minutes EACH DAY sitting was utterly startling. After spending so many years as a school psychologist, it makes me wonder if there is a correlation between this and the number of students diagnosed with ADHD? Maybe they’re just not given enough time to MOVE! So what happens? They act out, can’t sit down, and can’t focus. With the constant barrage of information they are hit with day after day, that lack of movement makes it difficult to learn and retain information. But, that’s a whole other blog post (or a book 😉 ).
Children and youth spend over 7 hours per day engaged in sedentary activities, and children become more sedentary as they get older. No wonder the report card grade for “sedentary behaviors” was a D. The only plus I saw on the report card was that more elementary schools, since 2010, are requiring physical education classes. However, that is at the elementary level, not high school. PE is still not a requirement for all four years in the vast majority of high schools. Fewer kids are walking or biking to and from school. Most either ride the bus or are picked up and dropped off.
The report card gave an incomplete in the area of “active play”- the proportion of U.S. children and youth participating in daily unstructured, unorganized active play. I think there is an incomplete in this area because they know the data collected would be unbelievably terrifying. How many kids and teens do you see outside engaging in active play with peers? There are barely any. Why? Well, because they can play Xbox games with friends while sitting on the couch! There’s really no need to walk down the street to see a friend when there’s Face Time, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and they can communicate with dozens of friends at once, right in the convenience of their own home.
I don’t know when playing stopped being fun. Isn’t that the meaning behind the word “play?” Adults, we are doing such a disservice to our kids. This needs to end NOW. We need to step it up and stop taking the easy way out. 17 year-old teens are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. One-third of children are now considered overweight or obese. If they are overweight or obese as children, what is going to happen to them as adults? Then, the pattern will continue with the next generation, and the next, and the next. Bottom line, we as adults are the ones that need to change the fate of our kids and teens. Now is the time.