Kids Should be Active

Categories: Building Resilience, Community Engagement, Healthy Places, Physically Active

This is a reproduction from the Opinion page of the Sunday edition of the Keene Sentinel. We think it is a great read so we are sharing it here in case you missed it.

Kids Should be Active

Rudy Fedrizzi

When I was a kid I can remember my mother yelling at the top of her lungs that it was time to come inside. All my buddies were being called in by their moms, too. We were typically outside until dark playing touch football, driveway basketball, or throwing the baseball around.

During the day we were riding our bikes for miles and exploring the nearby pond for tadpoles and turtles. We didn’t need coaches, or uniforms, or structure, or even soccer moms. We walked or biked to school.

Unfortunately, in only one generation, kids no longer roam their neighborhoods, ride their bikes all over town, or spend their childhoods outdoors. In the 40 years since I was a kid, children have become more sedentary and more overweight. Despite recent positive news, one in four 3rd-graders in Cheshire County are either overweight or obese.

Some blame technology, which has led to leisure time being spent indoors, in front of a screen, and often alone. Others blame fear. My little sister who was 10 years younger than me, played outside much less than I did, and I can remember my parents warning her to beware that “someone doesn’t steal you.”

But we greatly overestimate the risk of abduction and violence. Nearly 80 percent of child abductions are perpetuated by relatives. In the past 20 years violent crimes against children have declined more than 55 percent. Not surprisingly, arrests for Internet crimes against youth have increased 20 percent since 2000. And obesity is still a real risk with pediatricians seeing an increase in typically adult diseases like diabetes in children. Researchers ominously predict our children may have shorter lifespans than their parents’ generation.

Schools and aftercare settings could provide adequate opportunities for active play and physical activity, especially outside. We need to build sidewalks, add bike lanes, and slow down traffic, to make walking and biking routes safe for all. We need to establish safe routes for walking and biking to school. We need parks in every neighborhood that are easily accessible. If we’re concerned about our kids’ safety then we need to be out there with them exploring nature, bicycling as a family, walking together to the library, school, or store. When there are no safe and accessible places for children to play, individuals and families have the odds stacked against them.

Later this spring the Keene Elm City Rotary Club will again be inviting elementary-age students grades K-5 to participate in the 4th annual Kids DeMar Marathon Program. Last year nearly 900 kids accumulated 25 miles of activity in the late spring and summer and then earned the right to run or walk the last 1.2 miles of the Clarence DeMar Marathon on the last Sunday in September. This year in a bold and visible effort to highlight the importance of children’s health and wellbeing, the Elm City club will also be providing every 2nd-grader in Cheshire County with a new pair of high quality sneakers at no cost!

Now I’m challenging all of us — youth, parents, school officials, business leaders, and policy makers — to create communities where activity is safe, encouraged, and woven into our everyday lives.

If we’re to become the healthiest community in the nation by 2020 we need to reintroduce kids (and ourselves) to the active childhood many current adults enjoyed by ensuring that our neighborhoods are the safest and most inviting places for walking, biking and playing.

 Rudolph (R udy) Fedrizzi, MD is president-elect of the Keene Elm City Rotary Club and coordinator of the DeMar Kids Marathon Program. He is employed by Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene as director of community health clinical integration and works to promote alignment between the community and health system to make the goals of Healthy Monadnock 2020 a reality.