Childhood Obesity: The Threat To Youth Fitness




Childhood Obesity

Liz D:

I’ve posted a question on a local moms forum asking what parents think are the root causes of Childhood Obesity/inactivity.


Certainly the typical ideas came forth: too much fast food, lack of exercise, not getting kids engaged in good habits early.


One idea did strike me and I’ve heard other moms tell me this. Heck, I even live this circumstance now:


One serious threat to youth activity is the lack of safety in our neighborhoods. We have so much access to information that we know when a sex offender moves into the ‘hood. We also hear about creeps on the news and evildoers who have even taken a child, hand-in-hand away from her backyard to bring her off premises.


With all this scary stuff afoot, moms and dads are definitely afraid to give their young kids especially too much liberty outside.


Has anyone ever polled parents to see if this comes up? Heck, for you IYCA parents out there, is this a factor in your life? Is organized sports the only recourse people see? Is there a solution to this or at least a good rib-tickling one-liner I can give these people? (Just goofing there)


Please chime in on your ideas.


Dr. Kwame Brown


One-liner I use:


That’s why your kids need a certified play mate in their community. I don’t market myself or our programs as fitness programs. I drill it into my staff all the time that we are playmates, and here for fun.




Let them know HOW you will keep their kids safe, and let them know the risks that ARE involved.


I told parents at the last PTA meeting I spoke at that their kids would probably get bumps and bruises, and a couple might even cry. I also told them that my job was to EDUCATE children so that they could learn to keep themSELVES safe. Some wrote me checks that night.


I think parents are beginning to smell BS more readily, and are looking for solutions + honesty.


Let them know that you don’t offer organized sports, but instead offer organized play environments.


Tony Reynolds


I think neighborhood safety is a HUGE issue. Trust me, I think about it 24/7. We live in a very safe area but it’s not impervious to those who wish to do bad to kids. However, this is not a problem without remedy. For me it is a simple matter of parental responsibility to monitor your children when they are outside or at least make darn certain a responsible adult is doing so.


I think it is a fundamental responsibility of a parent to take time away from work, chores, etc to spend time with your kids. So…carve out time to do this EVERY DAY outside. Even when they get older you can still be involved enough to “keep a direct line of sight.”


When you cannot…make sure you are getting them involved in a program that has adult supervision (organized sport, camps, music, clubs, etc).


Dave G


I agree with Kwame.


The other side of this is that statistically crimes against children and sex related crimes against children are actually down. These crimes are, however, reported by the press 600 time more than before. I don’t have the exact stats but I know BG does.


The reality is that my family is also in the same boat. The media has us scared half to death. We don’t let my boys in our front yard unless we are present.


Back to Kwame’s point…educating the parents and the kids that our facility is a safe place is a must.


Great post and topic Liz.



What do you think? Leave your comments below:


21 Responses

  1. Francois Nel says:

    The situation will definitely differ from country to country. In South Africa to let your child, esp. female, play outside is very much the same as to put her in a lion cage in the zoo and expect nothing to happen. We have some of the highest rates of rape and murder of children in the world.

    There are many people using this fear to build businesses where the business and not the child come first. Also the people working with the children are experts on adults and are coaching children as little adults. That is why training facilities that focus on the correct issues are so important.

    Thanks for IYCA to give guidance for the most effective road to travel.

  2. Roby Stahl says:

    I agree on all accounts. I have organized Soccer Fests for my soccer club in Cincinnati. Age group appropriate and the U9s -U12s boys and girls come in to the fields for 1.5 hours with their age group. 45 minutes of skill training (fun) they might not get with their teams and then 45 minutes of 4 v 4 soccer in which they play with different teammates each week. For these games the kids ref and organize the games themselves and are responsible for subbing in on the fly. The coaches (adults) do not coach or provide feedback and are just observers. The player slove it and we have up to 140 players each week for each session. The team coaches love it as well. The players will try creative things when they are not under constant pressue and this transitions into their team matches as well.

    Bigget problem was with the paents at the onset even though they all professed to understanding the format and philosophy. Seems they all agree with free-play but want to organize it for the kids instead of letting their child risk failure by tryin something new on their own. It took a lot of PR and letter to/from parents but now they are sold!

  3. Scott says:

    I’m sure there are neighborhoods that don’t provide a safe area for our kids to play, but I think that most neighborhoods are safe to play in like we did when we were kids. The media has blown the few instances out of proportion to make us feel we are not safe. Many of our kids are out of shape or obese because parents don’t let their kids have free play outside where they create their own games with the other kids in the neighborhood and even drink from the hose when they are thirsty. They don’t let them climb trees or play football in the street because they might get hurt. How do kids stay healthy and build natural strength and agility then?
    The modern family of both parents working has forced kids into after school programs and limited their opportunities to play outside or in organized sports because they are too tired after work to spend time with their kids or take them to practice. Our local Pop Warner used to have 70 teams a season 25 years ago and now we struggle to field 10 to 12 a season. Schools limit kids activities becasue they fear being sued from little Johnny skinning his knee so they strictly control play and hold over weight or lazy kids to lower standards to not hurt their self esteem. It’s sad to see so many over weight kids in our schools when we live in the greatest country in the world.
    There is safety in kids playing together in the neighborhood becasue they look after each other and learn how to get along. Our neighborhoods are safer than the media wants us to beleive, just like our water from the hose.

  4. Raj Gavurla says:

    Youth need unorganized and organized sports. True love of the game comes from individual play, friend play, and making friends on playgrounds and in driveways. There’s something about knowing others while playing unorganized or organized sports. It brings people and countries together. Look at the Olympics, Superbowl, NBA playoffs, college, and high school sports.

    As an adult, I love randomly going to a park or playground and playing/teaching youth. A lot of sound principles are learned (street smarts) and style is picked up there. Organized sports hones this talent and skill and can increase to amazing levels with the feedback, drive, and determination of the youth.

    It’s all adults responsibility to be vigilant when seeing children at play to make sure they are safe. Even if, we just happen to be driving by in our car. Also getting outside does wonders for youth’s mind, heart, body, spirit, and soul because of the fresh air, endorphins produced, vitamin D from the sun, and plain freedom.

    I’m proud of our youth! We as adults need to step up.

  5. I LOVE this topic and am so glad it came up. I agree with much of what is being said – that parents are terrified to let children outside. However, although it pays to be cautious, there is alot of misinformation and fear. I have some statistics and information that might help.

    For the past 14 years, I have been a volunteer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I am a member of their Speaker’s Bureau and have served in many positions within the organization. Here are some facts:

    About 100 children each YEAR are abducted by a complete stranger. In comparision, more than 250,000 children are taken each year by a non-custodial parent or someone they know. The fact is that your child has a much greater chance of being hit by lightning than of being taken by someone completely unknown while they are playing in their yard.

    The 4 Rules of Safety that we teach children and parents are these:

    1. Check First before you go anywhere so your parents/guardians/sitters know where you are and who you are with.

    2. Take a Friend with you. Don’t go around the neighborhood alone. Bring a friend, sibling, parent, etc…

    3. Say No, Go Tell – if you are ever approached by someone you don’t know who is asking for information and is making you feel uncomfortable, say no (like you mean it) and go tell an adult you can trust.

    4. Trust your Instincts – Your gut instinct is usually right. If it feels odd, uncomfortable or scary, don’t do it or get away quickly and get to an adult or place where you feel more safe.

    My opinion is this— it pays to be safe. Take time and educate your children on how to be safe. Show them safe places they can go to if they need help in their neighborhood. Just as you teach them to be safe from a fire, put all the plans into place, and then let them GET OUT AND PLAY!!!

    Sorry – couldn’t help but take a minute to pass along some important information. To learn more, please check out the NCMEC websites – http://www.missingkids.com and http://www.netsmartz.org.

    Have a great day!

    Kelli Corasanti
    Studio 8 Fitness
    7201 Route 5 West
    Clinton NY 13323

  6. henry fink says:

    When I was growing up back in the late 50’s early 60’s we children would run in herds. Usually there was a parent, usually mom, at any give home so caring eyes were all around. Many years later even in a small “safe” community as a parent I couldn’t help but worry when my children were not in my site. The bottom line is fear real or otherwise is there. In my community, we parents lament that the children have lost the ability to create play by themselves. Unless there is someone, an adult, leading the way the children of today won’t move. I am all for organized sport however it should be without parents looking on. The children are always on display weather it’s Tee Ball, Football, Soccer or Baseball. I am guilty of popping off during my daughter’s soccer matches. I don’t mean to but sometimes as a competitive person it just comes out. But if you didn’t show up what kind of a parent are you not supporting your child. These are very difficult social issues and they are real. So to create the IYCA as an alternative to organized sport is not only wise by social responsible.

  7. Dave Gleason says:

    To further my point – parent involvement is the a solution that is often overlooked. 20 minutes of Activity – ACTIVELY PLAYING WITH YOUR KIDS would go a long way. If we can teach the parents how to do this we would be making a bigger impact.


  8. Stacey O says:

    Whatever happened to “Go outside and play”? When we were kids, this was the mom’s mantra. Now,when a mom needs a moment alone, it’s “go watch tv.” Childhood obesity is DEFINITELY connected to this. It’s also connected to to the fact that kids (and adults) no longer walk anywhere. They don’t walk to and from school because it’s deemed “too dangerous.” Even the middle schoolers in my neighborhood – a very safe one – don’t really walk. Though I must say that I am thankful for some of the older kids in my neighborhood – and by older I mean ages 7-11 – are constantly playing outside, so my much younger kids can join them. For now, I have to stay there with my 5 and 2 year old, but soon enough, I’ll let them play outside by themselves as much as I can (at least the 5 year old ;-). And if you can’t go outside, play “monster” (chase your kids around your house) or baseball with your kids INSIDE your house with a soft ball – you’d be surprised how much fun you can all have!

  9. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    I see parents playing with their kids every day. In fact, one of my junior high schoolmates now comes here with his daughter. I also see parents that don’t play with their kids.

    I see neighborhoods where kids can play outside. I see neighborhoods where they can’t, and it truly isn’t safe.

    I see teachers and principals who encourage rough and tumble play, and I see those who are afraid of it.

    I think that there are multiple factors involved here, and we need not pick a “pet” factor (one of my pet peeves – blaming it all on one thing) to make a difference.

    Ok, we live in a capitalistic society, right? How about figuring out ways to make neighborhood play happen? what can you offer in your neighborhood? If you are a parent, form a play group with the kids. Let the kids who don’t join at first see you outside having fun.

    If you are in the winter months and it is prohibitively cold, play some “light” games inside, and yes this can include active video games, and even guitar hero (for the whole family, if the kids are old enough). This can also include twister, and wrestling, and slap boxing.

    Educate parents on the value teaching safety SKILLS to kids through managed risk, not wrapping them in bubble wrap. I will probably be writing an article on this soon.

    Remember that when we talk about personal responsibility, that doesn’t extend to just our favorite group to criticize. That means all of us. This term has been quite in vogue lately, and from what I have seen in the media, it usually means “you people”.

    If you are a parent, are you doing your part? If you are a coach, are you doing your part? If you are a member of corporate america, are you doing your part?

  10. Joyce Stevens says:

    All these comments are very valid and very true! I have to add that another problem I have seen with where are I live is that no one really has a “back yard” anymore! Homebuilders build homes so close together to get more homes on one piece of property! When I was a kid, we played in our back yard or someone elses! We had enough room to play anything and could expand to the neighbors yard because there were no fences! There’s not enough room in my back yard for my kids to do much, nor in any of our neighbors as well. The park is the only option and there is no way I’m letting them go there without parent supervision.

    Kids need to be able to play. When attending a parent teacher conference one year, I told the teacher I was a fitness trainer. He then proceeded to tell me how when he has an extra 30 minutes, he would take his class outside and have them play a game. He said he found that the kids were so used to parent supervised play that they didn’t know how to pick teams on their own, they didn’t know to resolve problems, and they couldn’t play without cheating! They’d rather cheat to win than lose! Wow! Talk about kids being “cheated” out of some very valuable life skills!

    We’ve got problems!

  11. Jack Brooks says:

    This is such an important issure that I posted an excerpt w/trackback in our Family Fitness Future blog. It has clearly become critical that the family, whether single parent, extended, grown kids back home, or any combination thereof share activities to stay bonded and in these tough times, “watch each other’s back!”
    Family fitness, exercising together can foster this as well as give physical and mental/emotional well-being.

  12. I know safety is a big issue and that no one wants anything bad to happen to their children ( I know I have 5 of my own aged 4-12) But I think a lot of the time it’s just laziness on behalf of the parents and carers. It’s so much easier to just give in to the nagging about the playstations, junk food, TV etc than it is to say ‘NO-Get outside and play.’

    I think the Safety issue is used as an excuse more often than not. Why not get out there with them – oh sorry too lazy. Why not take them to the playground or park even if you just sit and watch – oh sorry too lazy. I don’t buy it.

    “It’s not safe” is the scape goat of lazy and busy parents.


  13. Brian Grasso says:

    “It’s not safe” is the scape goat of lazy and busy parents

    Joanne pretty much summed up how I feel. I will add additional thoughts later….. BG

  14. Stephanie says:

    As a mom of 2 teen girls my husband and I have always encouraged independent play outside. The girls will go out for hours playing hoops, soccer anything. They’d rather be outside.

    Parents need to set the example! If you’re a couch potato, chances are your kids will be. You need to get out and move. You do not have to be a world class athlete to walk. Rake leaves, garden get the kids out!
    Our rule has always been if you want to leave the yard we have to know where, with whom, when. We give the return time and we always know the parents. They don’t just leave and it’s never been a problem. The girls know not to talk to strangers and they never go alone. They aren’t paranoid, but aware.
    The time they have outside is away from their organized sports which they need. They wouldn’t give up soccer and track for anything but they’ll just as quickly climb a tree, play kickball etc.
    We as parents either participate or watch sometimes too. It keeps us moving, and we can be together as a family. The independent play is important too.
    Parents seem to find the easy way out…….hmm that may be why kids do end up obese, or in trouble.

  15. I will be quick with my response since most of the points to be made have been made already. I believe that there are two problems that we are facing with this issue. First of all, because of the internet and news coverage, the accounts of child safety is at an all time high. We now know what happens in every part of the country and attribute it to our own personal area. The second problem is in the response to the first problem. Parents either keep their kids in front of the tv or engulfed in organized sports. I don’t think that they don’t want to be involved, but just feel like they don’t have the time for it. The idea that parents need to take some time each day to get outside with their kids is the greatest thing that we can push.


  16. Bonnie says:

    I am glad someone is finally talking about this topic. I tell parents all the time, make time for your and your children. PLAY WITH THEM. I have one of the largest and most level backyards in my community. I invite the kids to get off their cell phones, PSPs, Nintendos, etc. and come play with us. My husband and I take part in soccer drills, kickball, volleyball, and yes – I have a mini gym set up in my garage. When my kids have sleepovers their parents know and trust that their child will be safe and have plenty of fun activity. Lead by example and create a safe envirnoment for your children. If they want to ride bikes, ride with them.

    So many parents have to work longer hours in fear of losing their jobs. Set up a community watch where you have neighbors to look out for your children. Set up a system that will give you comfort as well as making your children feel safe when they step off of the school bus or walk to a friend’s house.

    Life is too short to be paranoid about the “what ifs”. Take charge and have faith that your kids are covered.

  17. SoCal Brian says:

    AWARENESS!!! With 3 kids of my own, ages 9-15, my goal has always been to educate them. They know what is right and wrong behavior to a certain degree. My kids don’t put themselves in predicaments that encourage questionable situations or bad outcomes. You can’t teach your children too much when it comes to their safety in my eyes. Bad people don’t usually announce their arrival, so you have to make your kids aware of the different types of suspicious behaviors. Most predators are on the lookout for opportunity, as long as your children know how to take away that opportunity they will greatly increase their chances of a safe and fun childhood! I feel that this is a very important part of youth fitness, staying safe!

  18. Physical Education Teacher says:

    As a Physical Education teacher we are concerned about the “development of the whole child.”This means that the equal importance of emotonal, social and physical development. School is preparation for life. How far will a child go after school is over with emotional and social deficits. Playing on their own, outside, helps in a child’s social development. The child must learn how “to give and take” and how to get along with their peers. The parent can have a discussion with their child when there is a problem with another child they can’t seem to solve.
    You want your child to come to you when they have a problem, trusting you for a wise, helpful, and none dictatorial answer. When my children were growing up I filled my home with wonderful things to play with and do, so all their friends wanted to come and play at our house and I knew where they were.
    I had playground duty most oof my teaching career. I would never have organized games outdoors during this time period. I gave them equipment and then they had to figure out what they were going to do and how they were going to do it. Sometimes I had to step in and help solve a problem but that didn’t happen to often. This socialization time did not happen in the classroom or after school most of the time. It was an extremely valuable time for my students. most being very active phyically and socially. We need our free time, so do children to explore on their own.

  19. Steele says:

    I concur with those of you that have stated that “we need to spend more time with our children”! The fact is that time is the one thing that you can not get back…so if I spend a half-hour playing catch with my kids, what does that say to them? The real issues are that “most” (not all) people under the age of forty don’t really want to work (long term) for some. We all want to look like were are in shape, but the real truth is that the only shape most are in is round. We have become a “quick fix” society. We look for pill that will shed pound (but not make us fit), food that is filling (but has no nutritional value) and doctors that treat symptoms not diagnose (and most of them are round too). So..our kids look the example(s) that we have set, they think that it’s what they should do, too (Just like the Welfare System). What investment(s) have we made with our kids, what do our actions really say about us and do we really want to be involved in our child’s life…or do we just pay the bill and have someone else do the work? “If there is no struggle, There can be no progress”

  20. Brian says:

    I read the whole list of responses to this issue and was glad to finally get to Steele’s. I agree completely. Kids follow the example of adults, especially those closest to them. At the same time I do know that I show more caution about where my kids go, especially my daughters, since I know that two registered sex offenders live in our neighborhood. It is sad that we can’t tell our kids to go outside and play and give them the freedom to go the distances away from the home for the hours at a time that I was allowed in the late sixties and early seventies. We did make up our own games, played baseball with an Indian rubber ball on the deserted side of the local grocery store parking lot, and rode our bikes all over two neighborhoods. I tell my kids that I felt like I did live during “The Wonder Years.”

    But dads also came home from the factory or office and offered games of “run down” or touch football in the street to give us a chance to compete against each other with a dad as the full-time quarterback. Interestingly, I don’t remember any really overweight adults. A little middle-age roll around the mid-section, and there was not much going on with gym memberships back then.

    But schools have changed as well. We had Phys. Ed. Classes three times per week, recess everyday, and outside lunch time when the weather was nice. We had regular intervals of activity throughout the day. I know some public schools that only have one P.E. class per week because they have cut art, music, and PE budgets to the bone.

    My take on some of the roots of this change: education has become more about socialization rather than competency in skills for learning, stay-at-home mothering and having a network of eyes and ears based at home and in the neighborhood was replaced by latchkeykids locked inside with the TV until the parents returned home from their jobs, and materialism and the drive for more and better consumed dad’s time not only working longer hours away from home but more hours at home involved with the maintenance of all the stuff that had filled the family’s life.

    After a generation or two of this it has become easier to take the money and pay someone else to play with the kids. I guess that’s good for us that have been playing with our kids all along. We can get paid to do something we love and have been doing for free.

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