Health

Underfunded Parks & Sports Leagues Harm Kids' Exercise

| by Toni Brayer MD

One out of 3 children in the United States is overweight. Increased consumption of nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with reduced physical activity, have led to obesity rates that have risen three-fold or more since 1980. Our kids are not to blame. We are.

The Center for Disease Control has found that only 20% of blocks nationwide have parks within a half-mile of their boundary. Fifty percent of kids say they lack access to parks, community centers and sidewalks in their neighborhoods.

Only 17% of high school students report getting the recommended 1 hour of exercise per day. Only 20 states require or recommend that elementary schools provide scheduled recess. Let me say that again. The majority of states do not even require scheduled recess for grade school kids.

Too many kids live in neighborhoods that aren't safe and have no access to sports leagues or after-school activity programs.

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Our nation needs to realize that all of the health care reform in the world will not improve the health of  the nation if we don't start focusing on what we know will lead to good health.  Every study ever done confirms that good diet and exercise is the magic that makes us healthy.  Yet we are not putting our money or our education where we know it will do the most good.  We must create opportunities for kids to be active and every neighborhood should have a park and community center.

I would like to see a national focus on creating parks where there are none and programs for kids to be active.  Every city has dilapidated areas that could be developed into park lands.  I don't think the politicians and civic leaders will step up to the plate until parents and teachers make some demands.  The first step for us is awareness.