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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on April 24th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 7

The Benchwarmer

Move you kids!

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

The alarm clock goes off. I roll over and beat it into silence. I lie there for a moment and prepare myself for my exit from bed.

Here goes nothing.

I throw my legs over the edge and sit up. I brace my hands on the bed and straighten my knees to stand—

Snap! Crackle! Pop!

Ouch.

Without fail, my knees remind me every day just how tired and unhappy they are. Although I’m only 24 and still within my prime, years of sports and running have taken their toll. I’ll just say that I ain’t as good as I once was, and I would give anything to be a kid again, to feel youth in my bones.

So that’s why, when I observe students at a local elementary school in PE class, I’m mystified by their lack of enthusiasm for physical activity. These kids range anywhere from age 6 to age 12, but listening to their huffing, puffing complaints when they run would make you think they were 60.

“My heart hurts. It’s beating hard!”

“My legs hurt!”

My personal favorite? “My throat is bleeding!”

Has someone convinced these kids running is hazardous to their health? Don’t worry, children: You aren’t dying. Your heart just forgot what it was like to exercise.

Plain and simple, it would seem as though kids have gotten lazier in addition to having bad eating habits—which is why childhood obesity is through the roof.

Don’t believe me? Take a gander at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent statistics on childhood obesity. In 2010, more than a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has more than doubled in the last 30 years.

A direct correlating factor for childhood weight gain and obesity is a lack of physical activity. The CDC also states that schools play a crucial role in helping children develop healthy eating habits and exercise routines. From what I’ve observed of the schools where I’ve worked, the institutions are doing their best to foster healthy behaviors by making PE a regular occurrence (three times a week) and offering wholesome food selections.

On a side note, given these startling statistics on obesity, I am baffled as to why physical education programs—often children’s only source of exercise—are being hacked from schools right and left. Our children are getting fatter and more out of shape; I’m frightened to see what a diet of no
PE does to kids.

One of the factors at the center of this problem is laziness. I truly believe someone altered this generation’s genetic makeup, replacing the “motivation” gene with the “laziness” gene; some of these kids don’t even have the motivation to run 50 feet, but tell them you’re going to the computer lab and watch how fast they move to line up.

The generational gap here is apparent. Not to pull out the whole “when I was your age I used to walk five miles in the snow uphill” thing, but when my sister and I were kids, we were always outside. Every free day from morning until night we would run around outdoors; we grew up doing yard work and playing sports. These days, I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid outside playing or raking the lawn. Most of the time when I ask the students at school what they did over the weekend, their responses are usually “I played video games,” “I got a new video game,” “I went to the movies.”

But, oh. Wait. That’s right—this coming generation is holed up inside with video games, rendering themselves socially inept. That’s the difference between their generation and mine—we played Power Rangers outside, these kids play Power Rangers on their computers or watch cartoons on television.

These kids will sit inside for hours rather than get fresh air; it’s no wonder my busted-up knees and me can outrun them in PE class. Like I already said, I would give anything to be a kid again—to have that kind of energy to move about and not regret it later.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say this: Children need to spend less time in front of a screen and more time outside with the trees. I’m not saying kids should be denied computers, video games, and TV, but, like everything else, there must be a balance, and the balance currently hangs heavily in favor of sedentary activity.

Kids today are out of shape, and I think it’s way past time we push the pendulum the other direction. I believe the change will have to start at home.

It goes without saying that children will mimic what their parents do, so if parents sit and veg out in front of the TV, their children are sure to adopt the same habit. Screen time for kids should be limited to two hours a day at the maximum. Don’t worry; your children will survive. My sister and I survived all the way through high school without a video game system (and the Xbox we do have collects dust), computers, or cell phones.

Get the family involved in playing games together, find alternative activities for your child, but most importantly, get them outside and moving. Young bodies and developing minds won’t survive on laziness, but fat, high cholesterol, and bad health will.

As Patrick Bennett said, “Laziness is the first step towards inefficiency.”

For all her doom and gloom, Kristina Sewell still has a few good years left. Send comments to ksewell@santamariasun.com.