Wednesday, May 30, 2012

300 to 500 extra calories per day!

In a post below, I wrote of my concern about the deterioration in physical conditioning of children ages 9 to 14.  I have received a couple of expert responses I  would like to share with you.

The first is from Brenda Rooney, a clinical epidemiologist and medical director for Community and Preventive Care Services at Gundersen Lutheran Health System in Wisconsin.  She specializes in obesity and notes:

I would agree with the observations that kids today are in worse shape than they were 5 years ago.

I think that our youth are worse off today due to many factors:
·       no one walks or bikes to school
o   due to non-bike-able/walk-able schools
o   due to irrational safety concerns
·       calorie consumption is 300-500 cal/day more today than 5 years ago
·       more screen time
·       less PE in school
·       less incidental activity outside of school (kick the can, capture the flag, pick-up baseball game, etc.)
o   due to dual parent working households
o   due to single family households
o   due to irrational safety concerns
·       Parents not role-modeling active behavior

Much of this is evidence based: A little is my opinion.

Hopefully some of the work we are doing in the community will affect some of these issues and ultimately improve outcomes.

Another comment is from an expert coach, a person who serves as a mentor to many volunteer parent coaches.  He says:

I'm astounded on a weekly basis at the lack of cardiovascular capacity many (but not all) of our kids demonstrate. And I'm not only talking about kids who have "less athletic" or "bigger" body shapes but oftentimes kids who at first look seem to have the perfect physique for an endurance sport like soccer where keeping their body in constant motion is pretty much part of the game. Frankly, it's both scary and a little embarrassing.

I remember being met with looks of sheer confusion when I suggested at a coach education session not long ago that we should be looking to leave our kids on the field for at least 10-12 or even 15 minutes at a time in order to help properly educate them on the roles associated with playing a certain position. The general consensus was that most coaches felt that the majority of their kids wouldn't be able to last anywhere near that length of time on the field before becoming exhausted and that 4-6 minutes was much more realistic. Unbelievable - 4-6 minutes!

Your colleague's recollections of his youth are very similar to my own where my friends and I would play outside every day after coming home from school (and taking care of whatever homework had to be done). At a guess, I have to believe my typical week (during the school term at least) would have included at least 15-20 hours per week of active recreational exercise. This might have been riding our bikes around the neighborhood, playing pick up sports, making up games or even just walking to see friends in other close by neighborhoods, but it was pretty much exclusively outdoors and there was NEVER a parent involved in any level of organizing our activities. As long as we were home by curfew, we were good!

I can't help but shake my head in disbelief sometimes when I show up to some of the beautiful open spaces and fields we have here at a time when the local neighborhood kids should be out in their masses having fun, playing and running around, only to find those same fields virtually deserted. I can't decide if the world we live in now is one where parents are so full of fear that something bad might happen that they won't allow their own children to go out and play unsupervised at all or if kids today are so over-scheduled and burdened with all the things they've got going on that they just have no interest in going "out to play" anymore. Either way, it doesn't bode well for the long term health of these young people.


Peter Yang said...

I'm most concerned about the lack of regular physical activity. Although the "Nintendo Generation" started about 25 years ago, there were not as many tempting options to sit in front of a screen for prolonged periods of time as much as today. It may not seem like much and is nowhere close enough to a solution, but I at least appreciate that gaming consoles have options that require players to stand up and move around. Increased adoption of internet-connected devices and phones has had a large impact on people's sedentary lifestyles.

Margaret said...

From Facebook:

This is truly scary that children become exhausted after 4-6 minutes of activity. At that age they should have tons of energy.

Niamh van Meines said...

It's also important to think about the quality of food that children are eating and it's impact on their energy levels and health. We should not underestimate how high glycemic index food make children feel. This absolutely impacts their ability to participate in sports, yet we are not thinking about how their diet plays a role. I'm shocked to hear some of the lunches my daughters classmates bring to school. Candy, cakes, chips, etc.

Anonymous said...

This is a cautionary tale about how norms for things like what food we eat or how our kids play are gradually shifted over time, beneath our notice, until we wake up one day to a dire situation.


ltsuruda said...

Unfortunately when teenage volunteers used to help out at Walden Pond, most would need to stop and rest roughly halfway around the pond. I think that this was due to a combination of lack of endurance/fitness and not eating properly in advance, to fuel physical activity.

DJ Wilson said...

Both of these speakers in the post appear to be out of touch with kids today. I'd bet the second has never had kids, and the first probably hasn't had young kids in years, if at all.

There is a lot of judgement and not much understanding in both posts.

Paul Levy said...

You don't really explain what you mean. Please elaborate.

clsmt said...

Can't speak to DJ Wilson's exact points but I'd guess that the comments about irrational safety concerns hit a nerve. I’d like to hear more about what that means.
Also, having unwalkable neighborhoods is something that my neighbors fight for - we have no sidewalks on the street that leads to the local elementary school and in the morning when people are driving to work, it's not realistic to expect kids to walk in the street with the cars to get to school. My neighbors would rather live with this safety risk than pay additional property taxes to have sidewalks built. I think they are depriving the kids in the neighborhood of the chance to ride their bikes safely, trick or treat and get to know one another. I presented the option of having grants fund the building of sidewalks and even this was met with a lack of enthusiasm because it would mean that the "government" would be "taking" a 5 foot strip off the front of each lot on the street by installing a sidewalk there (never mind the fact that the city already has the right of way in that area and can do pretty much whatever they want with it.) Two doors down, one of my neighbors in a wheelchair is basically housebound because he can’t wheel through the gravel and dirt that lines our street. If we had sidewalks, I think he would be able to get out more and interact with folks in the rest of the neighborhood.
If we are really serious about making our communities kid and senior friendly, we need to take a long hard look at the choices we make about taxes and money. The “no taxes for any reason” position that many take hinders us from pooling our resources and creating safer communities.
I agree that parents have a role to play – but we need our neighbors to work with us and help us out.