I usually don’t say much about the physical activity side of the obesity equation, mainly because overeating calories is so much greater a contributor to weight gain. But don’t get me wrong. I favor “move more” as much as “eat less,” especially for kids.
I’m dismayed by how kids these days are basically under house arrest. So, apparently, is the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has just produced a thought-provoking report about how to create a kid-friendlier “built environment” (public health-speak for sidewalks, playgrounds, and the other ways cities are constructed to discourage physical activity).
My favorite statistic from the report: In 1969, about 41% of kids walked to school on their own. Today it is 13% on average and just 5% in some areas.
Try this for comparison: When I was 8 years old and living in Manhattan, I walked 6 blocks to school in the morning, came home for lunch, walked back to school after lunch, and then walked home, got my bicycle, and headed off to the park – unsupervised – and lived to tell about it. I took subways – by myself – to piano lessons. After school, I was sent out to play and expected to stay out until dinner time.
Well, society has changed and it is hard to imagine letting children so young do that today. The question is what to do about it. Pediatricians urge us to ask that question. And about time, too.