If you lived in a neighborhood where gunshots rang out every day and drug dealers loitered on your street every night, would you let your kids outside to play? Well, you’re not alone.
One of the reasons our children are not getting the minimum amount of physical activity they need is that physical education has been carved out of our schools, and many youth live in high-crime neighborhoods where their parents are afraid to let them go outside. So it’s no wonder that the national childhood obesity rate, especially in impoverished and underserved communities, has skyrocketed over the last 30 years and has now reached epidemic proportions.
A report conducted by the Trust for Public Land revealed that “crime drops when adequate parks and recreational activities are available in inner-city neighborhoods.” Many examples can be found in cities and towns throughout America where policymakers, law enforcement officials, community leaders, and residents have joined together with the park service and recreation facility owner-operators to take back their neighborhoods and make them safe.
Every summer in Phoenix, basketball courts and rec centers are kept open until 2 a.m. to encourage residents to be active with their neighbors. The city of Phoenix found that during the summer months, calls to police reporting juvenile crime incidents drop by as much as 55 percent.
Researchers at Columbia University reported that Boys or Girls Clubs in public housing projects reduced crime rates by 13 percent and drug use by more than 20 percent. Juveniles between the ages of 10-16 year olds who have a mentor, which is an important component of a quality after-school program like those of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, are 46 percent less likely to use drugs and 27 percent less likely to start drinking alcohol.
So we cannot afford for our kids to sit home and play sedentary video games after school. We must give them opportunities to participate in physical activity and make better food choices throughout the day. It is proven that physical activity and good nutrition help children perform better academically by increasing concentration and energy levels and boosting self confidence. Physical activity also hones their socialization skills, which enable young people to identify with peers, succeed in college or a vocation, and live happier and healthier lives.
That is why the President’s Council works closely with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to connect the public and private sectors with non-profit organizations and encourage them to develop sustainable programs to fight childhood obesity. Through the “Million PALA Challenge”—a joint physical activity campaign to get one million Americans to earn their Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) by September 2011—and initiatives like Let’s Move! Cities and Towns and Let’s Move Outside, we will make great strides to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family and one community at time. For more information, visit www.fitness.gov
Williamson, D. (May 2000). Study: Crime, lack of PE, recreation programs lead U.S. adolescents to couch-potato lifestyles. UNC News Services. Retrieved from http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/jun00/popkin6060500.htm
The Trust for Public Land. (n.d.) Why we must invest in urban parks. Retrieved from http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cdl.cfm?content_item_id=888&folder_id=728
Riley, R., Peterson, T., Kanter, A., Moreno, G., & Goode, W. (2000). Afterschool programs: Keeping children safe and smart. Washington, DC: Child Trends.
I was excited to see the phrase, “sedentary video games” in this blog–it’s the first time I’ve seen such an adjective used in any of our federal reports!
We now have an intervention–exergaming (aka ‘active gaming’) that is a solution that can overcome almost all of our PA barriers. It’s available in-home, after-school, or rec centers, has a low entry cost, appeals to this generation of “techies” & videogamers, and most of all, it’s FUN!
Research now shows that exergames CAN meet the federal PA recommendations of 150 mins. of moderate intensity PA.
With the latest exergaming games–Kinect (xbox) and Play Motion (PS3) just out, we continue to get more and more options to overcome obstacles to being physically active.
Unfortunately, many people who would benefit from this form of intervention won’t hear about it because so many in public health don’t even know that this newest intervention exists!
I just returned from the annual APHA meeting in Denver, and time and time again, no one seemed to know what this was, or even interested in learning more. They would hear “video games” and automatically assume it couldn’t be a real intervention for PA.
In one of the last sessions I attended, someone from the CDC was presenting on how we have not reached the Healthy People 2010 goals on PA, and then presented the draft of new goals for HP2020. In it, she pointed out that screen time was expanded to specifically point out TV, computer usage, and video game play.
I asked during the Q & A if it said “sedentary video game play”, she had no idea what I was talking about!!! (She did say to send her some info on this and MAYBE they might be able to edit it before it is released next month.
We are looking forward to APHA 2011 in DC because those of us in the PA Special Interest Group (SPIG) plan to really bring all sorts of PA strategies to the forefront and maybe even get the attention of First Lady Obama to come by and help promote the need for the APHA to be more proactive in promoting PA!!!
Ernie Medina, Jr