Kids should be having fun by playing outside

By Observer editorial February 22, 2012 12:58 pm
Used to be kids got dirty, went fishing, ate slugs. They rode bikes and swam in cricks (not creeks), rivers and ponds. They had fun and they did it outdoors.

Today, a generation of kids seem to be under house arrest. They spend their time playing video games, doodling on the Internet, watching TV, Twittering even. Some kids say their favorite skateboarding video game is more fun than skateboarding itself.

“Today, only 26 percent of children play outside every day, even in rural areas,” said Amy Busch, who coordinates the youth outdoors programs for Wallowa Resources. 

That’s appalling. Wallowa Resources wants to change that so children get some Vitamin D not in pill form.

Every year, more than 400 local youth participate in Wallowa Resources programs, made possible by generous support from individuals and foundations.

It’s a start in battling what has become an epidemic in childhood obesity. And a lot of the epidemic has to do with being couch potatoes living sedentary lifestyles. The
consequences to future health costs in America could be severe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of children ages 6-11, the obesity rate went from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Over the same time period, the obesity rate in adolescents ages 12 to 19 increased from 5 to 18 percent.

In 2008, one in every three children and adolescents was either overweight or obese.

And this is not just in the cities. This is in the country, where we have plenty of safe places to play right at our back doorstep.

Sure, there are certain risks to playing outdoors, the greatest of which might be human predators. There is also the danger of scraped knees and breathing air that is fresh and seems odd somehow.

The answer? Healthy eating, physical activity and more programs like those offered by Wallowa Resources.

The NFL, by the way, once known as the No Fun League, is attempting to change its image. This year its big public service campaign was called Play 60. The idea was to encourage kids to play 60 minutes a day at physical activity in order to combat the childhood obesity epidemic.

Adults might want to join Play 60, too, to set an example. It’s time we all realize that one of the best parts of living in Northeast Oregon is being able to turn off the TV and
computer, get outdoors and play.