This paper focuses on the lack of physical activity among children in the United States as a very acute issue in the socio-cultural life of the country. This topic is of a great interest for me due to passive lifestyle of the American families and the fact that physical inactivity among US children is the second cause of the obesity epidemic among children after the unhealthy diet.
It is necessary to underline that the modern world proposes many benefits for children to be smart and confident. However, the same modern world with its technical progress, all kinds of mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, iPads, and tablets stipulates that children have no longer live chat, do not play outdoor games. All the activities shifted from the speed of running to the speed of pressing buttons and screens. Moreover, due to the high workload of the parents or their unwillingness to take an active part in their children's lives, the time spending by the child in front of TV or playing computer games ceased to be within normal limits.
Regarding the issue of the children obesity, parents and children have to comprehend that this is already the question of epidemic scale and it cannot be ignored. Ogden et al (485) argue that approximately 15 percent of 2-5 year olds and more than 30 percent of school-age children are diagnosed obese or overweight in the U.S. Moreover, the situation is particularly worst for children from the low-income families. The figure of overweight or obese preschoolers from such families amounts to almost 31 percent. Low level of physical activity at school and at home is pointed to be crucial issue for the increasing of the above mentioned numbers in a geometric progression.
Pate et al (n.p.) argues that naturally children are more active comparing to adults, but as they become older and move towards adolescence their activity level declines. Significant numbers of young people starts to have passive lifestyle and do not have recommended levels of physical activity. Thirty seven percent of students spend less than 20 minutes vigorous physical activity per day. Hispanic, black, and female students participate less in vigorous physical activities than white male counterparts. The situation is worsened by the increase of watching television that occupies more space in the daily time spending. Thirty eight percent of students spend more than 3 hours before the TV each day.
It is stated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (n.p.), children gain mental and physical health improvement when they are active, and regular physical activity is a norm for them. It is recommended that children and adolescents should spend not less than 60 minutes per day for physical activity. It may include sports, games, play, chores, transportation, recreation, and physical education.
The program “Be active. Be cool” is proposed to be launched. The program “Be active. Be cool” addresses children and their parents. It appeals to the main delusions that the parents have:
Parents confuse the notions “being boisterous” and “being active” when thinking that their children are already active enough. Moreover, they believe that their children have enough physical exercises at school that does not always reflect the reality.
Sedentary activities such as playing computer games and watching TV are encouraged by parents because they lack motivation and inspiration to be active and thus giving themselves the time to rest.
Parents use cars even for short journeys, avoid walking and playing with children outdoors.
By our own example, we have to prove that the issue of improving the health of the nation starts from the early ages. It is not a matter of millions of investment made by the government, but it is a possibility that each parent can fulfill, a real chance to change an ordinary person’s attitude towards life.
The program “Be active. Be cool” has a voluntary character and this time its supporters will not involve big names such as stars and famous athletes. On the contrary, the heroes will be ordinary children from different parts of the country, who despite the financial situation of the family that is the lack of opportunity to attend sports clubs, can have enough physical activity.
The main goal of the Program is to draw attention of the families to the fact that it is cool to stay active. This program will give not only educational materials to the parents and children, but also practical recommendations: new ideas for games in the yard, examples of sport competitions that can be organized in the local communities.
Program supporters will distribute informational flyers developed at home with the help of ordinary computer and printer. We need to create a resonance, therefore, in the flyer we will shock parents with truthful photos of the results passive lifestyle can have for their children. There will be two scenarios developed and parents will have an opportunity to make a choice:
1) Lifestyle and level of physical activity in families stay unchanged, so is the state with the poor health of the children;
2) Each parent together with a child will be the member of the simple program “Be active. Be cool” on a daily basis.
In these active lifestyle, information flyers benefits of physical activity for young people will be demonstrated:
- Help to keep healthy body weight;
- Improve the confidence in themselves and their abilities;
- Develop movement and coordination control;
- Develop healthy muscles, bones and joints, cardiovascular system.
Moreover, physical activity guarantees such psychological benefits for young people as control over the symptoms of anxiety and ability to forget about depression. In addition, social development of young people proceeds more easily and provides additional chances to be recognized among the classmates, opportunities for self-expression, social integration, social interaction, improving self-confidence. It is proved that physically active children value their efforts and spent on physical activity, and to refuse smoking, drinking and drug use in favor of a healthy lifestyle. In addition, there is a direct dependence on the use of physical activity and academic performance in school. The more active a child is, the higher the performance at school (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services n.p.).
Such step will create preconditions for the behavior changes: parents and their children will see how it is prestigious and easy to be active, they will be dissatisfied with the present state of things, will obtain examples from ordinary children that it is easy to be active. The program strives to give families the belief and confidence that they are on the right way, and actions that they can take do not require a big funding.
The program will start from few local communities. All activities will be divided into two sections. First of all, our volunteers - children from neighboring schools will hand out flyers that will be created by children themselves, about the conduct of the action dedicated to the active way of life. All activities will take place on the weekend, all families members will be invited to this event. Venue is a large area or a park.
It is needed to underline that the voluntary program “Be active. Be cool” will be divided into three parts. The first part of this event will be a reminder to parents and children about the benefits of morning exercise, a demonstration of funny and memorable morning exercise under the cheerful music. Everyone will do it together standing in the meadow. 3 year old children will be leaders and will show the movements for the morning exercise. The purpose of such a decision is to show that parents and older children cannot be lazy even if the kids are already doing it. Recorded music and video of a morning exercise will be distributed to each participating family.
The second part is dedicated to the daily entertainments. It will comprise different competitions - for example, family tug-of-war, or team quests. It may seem strange, but when interviewing parents and children about the games on the air, many of them cannot answer, citing the fact that they have not played for a long time. Such collective games and games for a large public as Capture the Flag, Marbles, Red Rover, Heads Up, Seven Up, Spud will be proposed.
The third part of the event will include the concert demonstration of success achieved by children who are engaged in a physical activity just when playing outdoors. The show on horizontal bars will be the most memorable. The group of children, boys and girls aged 8 to 15 years, will demonstrate an excellent physical condition and give a master class for everyone.
The main goal of the above mentioned events is to take another step towards a healthy way of thinking in the family, recall that physical activity is not just related to a gym or professional sports. Great importance should be given to interaction and unity of families, the opportunity to spend time outdoors instead of sitting before a computer or TV, obtaining a lot of fun, getting fervent, memorable and great health benefits.