Fast Food and Youth Sports

Over the past few decades, a defining aspect of American culture has risen and impacted the country in negative ways: fast food culture. The convenience, speed, and time-saving values of the fast food industry and especially the drive-through have been well chronicled, along with the negative effects on health and activity. In California, there are ads about getting active. A kid calls his grandma in the house to come to his room just to grab the remote for him from the table in front of him. While that is supposed to be an exaggerated example, some may say that it’s actually not. All our technology has made it so humans are required to do less and less. Coupled with this is the reliance on mobile devices. According to a British study quoted in a Huffington Post article, the action of looking at your phone, even for just a couple of seconds, is becoming habitual. People are spending more and more time on their phones, about a third of their day, according to this study1. Take my own life as an example. I work with a computer and my breaks and any idle time are filled with looking at my phone. Many of my coworkers do the same.

Obesity rates in children have been on the rise, a key reason why former First Lady Michele Obama advocated for and implemented campaigns for kids to eat healthier and get more active.

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image from the Obama white house

Being overweight/obese leads to many health risks, such as high blood pressure leading to heart complications, diabetes, bone problems, fungal infections, and acne, as pointed out by WebMD2.  At the same time, we have seen a rise in popularity of eSports, games like League of Legends and Fortnight, and their popularity in social media. An article in the Guardian points out that in Britain, a child gets their first cell phone around 12 years old. And one in ten of kids gets a phone by the age of five! It is astonishing that they are building the habits of phone dependency at that age. This same article cites a study stating in America, only 29% of high school students are active for an hour a day. That is the supposed minimum amount, also referenced in campaigns like the NFL’s Play60, referring to an hour of play a day. The Obama Whitehouse’s Let’s Move campaign also states that an hour a day is the minimum.

There is a need to get more active, and sports is a great way to do that.

The benefits of playing organized team sports cannot be stated enough. The first, obvious one is getting active. Organized sports also provide the opportunity to get involved in structure, a routine of practice and games, getting used to play with a group and building teamwork. These are well known, but many reports like the Physical Activity Council’s show while participation overall is not doing too bad, rates seem to be flattening. More importantly, how they play is changing. There is a difference between going for an hour walk versus an hour of jogging/running. Playing an organized game of basketball is a different level of activity than just shooting around. According to this report, 17% of 6 to 12 year-olds were inactive, a 5% decrease from just the previous year.

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Physical Activity Council Participation Report

From the chart above, inactivity rates are going down overall, which is great progress, especially with kids (under 18). The goal is to continue to get kids to adopt better habits with eating and staying active. Team sports is a great way to go. Kids become accustomed to playing sports and staying active, forming a habit that hopefully lasts for a long time. Living healthy, staying active, and eating properly can be hard to pick up. Starting early and developing good habits at a young age increases the odds of those habits lasting and to generations becoming healthier and living longer. The foundation is laid with participation in youth sports and activities.