Coming to you this morning from Australia is an article by Adele Horin in The Sydney Morning Herald about an American professor of family science at the University of Maryland, Sandra Hofferth, who gave a talk there about how our children’s lack of outdoor activity is leading to obesity at younger ages.
“There’s been a quadrupling of the number of overweight children in the US since the 1960s,” she said. “A big part of the problem is that play has become more sedentary.”
The article goes on to say that, the percentage of boys who spend time outdoors walking, camping and gardening is down to just 8%, from 16% in the late ‘90s. That’s an eye-opening drop in just a 10-year time span and I believe that it could have larger ramifications than just an increased occurrence of childhood obesity.
The larger fallout from fewer children participating in outdoor activities like camping and hiking could mean that our children will be much less likely to develop an appreciation for the outdoors and all it has to offer. With no emotional attachment to nature and its beauty, our children – the future of this country – will be less likely to pick up the torch on environmental conservation and preservation issues that they are sure to face in the decades to come.
We as a people tend to show concern for things that are familiar to us. Like learning a second language, developing an understanding or appreciation for something is best undertaken at an early age, before life’s distractions set in and we become too busy to take on something new. Not every child is going to become another John Muir, but each one deserves the opportunity of the outdoor experience.
Our children deserve better than 14 or 15 hours of TV every week. There is more to life than video games and computers, but it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children, through our own example, all that life has to offer.