There is no doubt that American youth are less active today than ever before.Â With the wild enthusiasm over video games, the Internet and the endless supply of TV channels, children and teenagers have little need to walk out their front door to find entertainment. Add to that parental safety concerns of unsupervised activity and the urban sprawl that has made automobile transportation a necessity for most activities, and we've got an entire generation growing up indoors.
Surveys show that walking and bicycling have dropped 40-percent among children age 5-15 between 1977 and 1995, and even further in the past decade. Studies have found that in a typical elementary-school gym class, a student engages in moderate to vigorous activity for only three minutes while 80-percent of kids watch more than three hours of television a day.Â The shift from active pastimes to more sedentary pursuits has serious repercussions for the health and well-being of our youth. Â
The inactivity crisis among American youth (along with the decline in quality of diet) has led to an inevitable obesity crisis. 16-percent of children ages 6-19 are overweight (1999-2002) based on their targeted BMI for their gender and age and 31-percent are at risk of being overweight. Over the past three decades, the prevalence of obesity in kids aged 2-5 and 12-19 has increased by more than 100-percent and for kids between the ages of 6-11, it has risen more than 200-percent.Â Many studies show that childhood weight problems can lay the foundation for lifelong weight problems, so early intervention is key.
While the statistics may sound grim, most health experts agree that a healthy, active lifestyle is the best prescription for preventing childhood obesity and other health related problem.Â We have an important opportunity to positively influence the activities and behaviors of today's youth.Â Â Â Â
So what can you do?Â You can change the life of a child today simply by taking him or her outside to hike, bike, camp or paddle.Â Introducing an individual to outdoor recreation at a young age is key to instilling a lifelong love of the outdoors and ensuring a healthy, more active lifestyle.
Outdoor Industry Foundation research indicates that 90-percent of current active adults were introduced to outdoor recreation between the ages of 5 and 18. Research also shows that parents, friends and family have the greatest influence over getting youth started in an outdoor activity.
It is the responsibility of every person in the outdoor industry to make it a personal goal to introduce at least one youth to the joys of the active outdoor lifestyle. Take a child on their first camping trip.Â Show a teenager how to top rope.Â Teach your niece or nephew how to canoe.Â You can keep the chain of influence strong by mentoring a youth in an activity that you are passionate about.
For more on Outdoor Industry Foundation's Getting Youth Active Initiative click on www.outdoorindustry.org/webnewsimages/gya.htm
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