UW Researcher Julie McCleery says she has found that King County kids are not getting the hour of exercise per day that the CDC recommends. She also found that girls are less likely to get their exercise than boys, and kids from immigrant families are being left behind.
McCleery is largely focused on how organized sports can help kids stay active, and that’s great. But her story should also be a guide for safe streets advocates and departments of transportation. Because a sport is one way to get exercise, but walking, biking and generally playing outside work, too. And unlike with sports, walking, biking and playing outside don’t require joining a team or following a schedule.
“Further, we learned that children being raised in immigrant families were less likely to play at parks near their homes,” McCleery wrote. She does not talk about bike lanes or trails, but that is worthy of future study.
It’s hard to think of many things more important than the health of children. Part of the safe streets vision is that neighborhood space could return to the neighborhood kids. Everyone should feel safe letting their kids play outside their homes, and people driving should feel like guests on streets the neighborhood kids own. But aside from just creating infrastructure, we also need to make sure everyone has a sense of ownership of our public spaces, whether that’s a park or a bike lane or a street.
Federal guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for all kids between 6 and 18 years old to be physically active for at least an hour every day. Anything from playing tag at recess to practicing basketball after school to riding a bike to a neighbor’s house counts.
… We found that about 80% of kids in King County have participated in sports programs.
Despite this, we found that only about a fifth of the county’s youth get enough physical activity, which is lower than the national average of about a fourth. States with similarly low rates of physical activity include Alaska and Maine.
In King County, boys get more exercise than girls – which is similar to national trends. However, we found that, unlike national trends, boys and girls are participating in organized sports at the same rate.