In one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of its kind funded by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, American children become less active once they hit the teen years: While 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, fewer than 3 percent of 15-year-olds do.
The study suggests that fewer than a third of teens that age get even the minimum recommended by the government - an hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, like biking, running, swimming or even brisk walking.
The study reported that the sharp drop raises concerns about inactivity continuing into adulthood, which could endanger kids' health throughout their lives.
Inactivity is linked with greater risks for many health problems, including heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
What's the cause? According to the study, they cited schools dropping recess and gym classes and kids' increasing use of video games and computers (something I mentioned in a previous blog).
The 6-year study, which tracked more than 1,000 U.S. children from 2000 - 2006, coincided with the rise in popularity of video games, DVDs and Internet use - all the types of things that take children from outside and put them on a couch or in front of a computer.
The message being sent to parents is that it's important to teach their kids to balance computer time with more active pursuits, like walking the dog, shooting some hoops and playing other games and sports.
Now is the time for parents to step up as the role models they should be for their children. Parents should become more active and encourage kids to get out and play more. It doesn't take a structured training plan to become more fit and active. Simple family activities like walking the dog, going for a bike ride or playing games like tag, dodgeball, kickball, volleyball, basketball and flag football will all lead to positive changes, both physically and mentally.
There is one organization that is trying to make a difference: International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA).