It’s pretty much old news at this point. The population of the United States is becoming incredibly unhealthy and unfit as time goes on. Everybody knows it, but we must never stop discussing this tiresome fact over and over again because, frankly, it’s not getting better. The most alarming trend in America’s downward spiral into illness and obesity is that it appears to be affecting our kids the most.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control conducted a physical study involving 600 teenagers. They found that only 42 percent of them could reach the bare minimum threshold for being considered “fit”. This happens to be a decline from 52 percent in 2000. The lead author of the report, Dr. Gahche, suggested that “Children should spend at least 60 minutes daily…mostly doing aerobic exercise, like walking, running, participating in team sports or martial arts.”
While obviously good advice, does he mean to say that many of our kids aren’t doing something so mildly strenuous and benign, as walking?
It’s absolutely baffling to think that a large segment of our youth can’t find a few more minutes of their day to bring their heart rate up even a little bit. It shouldn’t be too shocking to find that the study pinned the blame on a common culprit:
Competing for kids’ time with these activities, of course, is a growing proportion of the day devoted to computers, tablets and other forms of screen time.
“Kids come home after school nowadays and don’t even leave the house,” said Dr. Dyan Hes, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College…“Especially teenage girls – they chat, they text, they go online. It’s really a sad state.”
While food and drugs are also a major factor in our declining health, the idea that our gadgets are sucking up all the time we used to spend exercising isn’t a new one. The average adult in the U.S. spends a total of 5 hours a day consuming digital media from computers, laptops, and smartphones. This probably wouldn’t have been that much of a problem if Americans were replacing TV time with their new gadgets, but they aren’t. The average time spent in front of the TV has remained somewhat static at around 4 and half hours. The average American spends almost every waking moment absorbed into some kind of media.
This is the example we’re offering to our kids, and it shows. Diabetes has been on the rise among our youth for a long time now, but it’s managed to climb significantly in recent years. Over the course of a decade the percentage of kids 12-19 with diabetes or prediabetes managed to triple from 9 percent to 27 percent.
What’s really bizarre is that it isn’t just a rise in type 2 diabetes, which can be accounted for with our poor diets and exercise. Type 1 diabetes is on the rise as well, which is widely believed to have more genetic causes rather than environmental. I can only guess at the factors involved, but I have to ask, Is our diet and lack of exercise setting up our kids for a lifetime of illness before they’re even born?
The implications for the future are staggering. There’s been plenty of talk of how our nation is going to pay for the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. The lowest estimates of unfunded liabilities in medical care put it at around 25 trillion, as the number of people in retirement will nearly double over the next 20 years. To sustain such an astronomical cost it’s going to require a healthy generation of workers to maintain a debt that isn’t even theirs.
I digress. Perhaps what should really worry us is how we’re going to support the current generation, who may likely end up too sick and bedridden to even work long enough to reach retirement.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .