Were your parents speedier than you are?


First lady Michelle Obama, leader of the Let’s Move program, dances with kids at the debut of a school exercise program in Chicago, Illinois. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
December 11, 2013

Don’t look now, but your mom and dad may be gaining on you.

A recent report by the American Heart Association — a big organization that encourages adults and kids to stay healthy — found that kids 30 years ago could run faster and longer than kids today.

The report, which reviewed 50 studies involving millions of kids from around the world, found that today’s kids are 15 percent less fit than kids from years ago.

What does that mean? Let’s say you’re a 12-year-old girl. You’re not a sports superstar, but you’re pretty good — kind of average. Let’s say your mom was the same kind of kid when she was your age.

Now imagine we could set up a mile-long race between you and your mom from 30 years ago. Wouldn’t that be totally cool! What wouldn’t be so cool is that the study shows your mom would probably beat you in the mile run by 90 seconds. That’s a lot.

It was the same for boys. The average boy from 30 years ago would beat the socks off the average boy today.

The scientists who did the study think there are lots of reasons for the big fall-off in fitness. First, too many of today’s kids are overweight. Carrying extra weight makes it harder to run fast.

Second, kids today don’t get enough exercise. Doctors say kids should get at least 60 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise a day. That’s why the National Football League has its NFL Play 60 program and first lady Michelle Obama promotes her Let’s Move program. That’s also why it is important for schools to have physical education classes and recess.

So what should kids do? After all, you don’t want your mom and dad thinking they are faster than you.

Why not start with something simple this holiday season? Don’t ask Santa for another video game or a favorite movie. Those presents will just plop you down on the couch and keep you there for hours.

Instead, ask for something that will get you up and moving in the new year. Like a K-2 football. They are perfect for a kid’s smaller hand. If you have a back yard, why not ask for a badminton set? Or if you have a park with a tennis court nearby, ask for a tennis racket.

How about a new lacrosse stick, or an indoor-outdoor basketball so you can work on your game?

When you feel you are in better shape, challenge your mom or dad to a race. But watch out. They might be faster than you think.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 18 sports books for kids that combine sports fiction and sports history. His latest book is “Perfect Game.”

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