Too often when we think fitness, we think only about the adult population. The assumption gets made that even though we tend to see more and more chubby kids around, they are young and therefore must be relatively healthy – or at least they’ll grow out of it. After all - kids have recess, sports, and love to run around and play tag, right?
Well, increasingly the answer seems to be, no. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, our children are some of the unhealthiest in the world – and not just physically. One in five children have a mental disorder, depression rates have risen by 37 percent and suicide rates have skyrocketed by 200 percent.
I understand that this statement seems like hyperbole, but this is not some broad generalization. This is an objective fact according to a highly credentialed and peer-reviewed medical journal that surveyed and studied children from 50 countries around the world.
American youth (ages 9 – 17 years) were used in the study) ranks 47 out of 50. Obviously this is an alarming finding, but perhaps it should not be too surprising. There is much to speculate on as to why this is case; videogames, cellphones, shorter recesses, decreased emphasis on competition, the list could go on and on. The research, unfortunately, does not point to any singular culprit, but does make the rather interesting correlation that countries with the least income inequality tend to be the healthiest, and those – like ours – where income inequality is shockingly high and only getting worse, tend to be among the unhealthiest.
With any big societal problem, and this is definitely one, there is rarely ever a simple answer.
But one thing is glaringly obvious, and that is that movement is medicine for kids too, and we should all be writing prescriptions for the young people in our lives. Aside from the most obvious and mainstream ways to get kids active - like school sports, dance or gymnastics - there are many other options that may ignite a passion for health and wellness in your child. Here are a few options that you may not have known that could be catered to and available for children:
- Cross Fit for Kids: Yes Cross Fit! It’s not all about heavy lifting and sweaty grunting. Cross Fit has the opportunity to instill sound movement mechanics into functional lifts that can be translated into almost any sport or activity.
- Spartan Racing: There are a number of different obstacle course racing circuits that are becoming increasingly popular for adults because of the fun they bring to an otherwise mundane activity. It would be hard to motivate a kids to go out and run 3 miles, but if you told them that they get to splash through muddy puddles, jump over fences and throw heavy things while they did – they’d be a lot more interested. Spartan Racing has courses available for kids as young as 5 years old.
- Triathlons: iCAN TRI is a great organization that educates and supports young athletes who desire a typically solitary sport as part of a fun community. The variability associated with a triathlon is unparalleled in its comprehensive conditioning and can lay the foundation for a life of health and wellness.
These are just three of the many, many options available to our youth. Not making the team is not an excuse to be sedentary, and given the health risks associated with insufficient movement, we must all step up – lead by example – and get our kids moving!