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300 to 500 extra calories per day!

Posted May 30 2012 8:35pm
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 householdso   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.
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