The state of physical activity in the U.S. is in a sad state of affairs. According to the findings of recent research, rates of physical activity for many Americans is peaking when children are in the first grade. And, that same survey is revealing that today’s 19-year-olds are only as active as today’s 60-year-olds.
A recent Washington Post story that was reprinted in the Chicago Times has reported that rates of physical activity among adolescents in the U.S. are slowing down rather than increasing. These decreases are mirrored in the recent ‘Inactivity Pandemic Report 2017’ where youth physical activity saw some of the biggest drops ever.
The results of a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey study, which were reported recently in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, indicate that rates of physical activity for Americans is peaking at age six.
According to the newspaper story, two of the main reasons why rates of physical activity are slowing down are the following:
(1) children are getting less physical activity time (i.e. recess and physical education) at school.
(2) children are spending too much time every day behind screens (TVs, computers, tablets, and cell phones), sometimes as much as seven to nine hours a day.
Vijay Varma, a researcher for the National Institute of Aging and lead author of the study, acknowledges that people do tend to become less physically active during their overall lives, but the recent rates of decline in physical activity among young people in the U.S., starting in elementary school, is higher than he would expect. Again, the findings of the study indicate that today’s 19 year olds in the U.S. are as sedentary as today’s 60-year-olds.
“At 60-plus, many people have health issues that might cause a restriction in movement, but why is this happening at age 19? It suggests that the social structures in place may not be supporting physical activity,” stated Varma in the story written by journalist Ariana Eunjung Cha.
Those findings underscore the value of regular physical education in schools, which, sadly, is provided in just 48 percent of U.S. schools. As the emphasis on P.E. has dropped in the U.S., so has the level of physical activity among children, as the number of U.S. children who are physically active to healthy standards (at least three days a week) has dropped from almost 29 percent in 2011 down to 24.8 percent in 2016.
The downsides of not getting children active are noticed by the American medical community.
“Sadly, more and more children are physically inactive,” says Dr. Jordan Metzl, Sports Medicine Doctor/Author/Marathoner, New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery (and a member of Doctors for a PHIT America). “As a doctor, this is not only an issue for their present health, it signals that health issues will increase as they get older.”
“One of the most important things we can do for the health development of our children is to assure they are getting the required amount of physical activity,” notes Tim Church, Ph.D., Professor at Pennington Biomedical, Louisiana State University (and a member of Doctors for a PHIT America).
“More and more students are not getting physical education or any type of physical activity in school and then, when they get home, they are more sedentary because they have no desire to be physically active. Many kids can’t throw, catch, skip, run or jump,” says James O. Hill, Ph.D, Professor, Departments of Pediatrics & Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine (and a member of Doctors for a PHIT America).
The call to action on this issue of physical inactivity comes from PHIT America.
“In 10 years, with the present trends, kids will be even more sedentary and unhealthy than today,” says Jim Baugh, Founder, PHIT America.
“We know the issues and we have the solutions. For school children, it’s getting P.E. back in our schools. “Since the fall of 2015, we have helped almost 300 schools and 120,000 kids with our PHIT America GO! Grants. These grants are rebuilding physical activity in schools and with young students. People and companies are just starting to see the negative magnitude of physical inactivity. We know that we are doing is right for these kids, their health, their academic improvement, healthcare in general, and our country. We need to focus on promoting the roots of physical activity in America, which is P.E. in our schools for all students in all grades. Educating Americans about the value of physical activity with a focus on P.E. in our schools will turn around the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ in America which is impacting 81.7 million people.”