Prodding couch potato youth into the great outdoors

The health of America's youth is continuing to decline, spurred by obesity, diabetes, drug and alcohol abuse, and unwanted pregnancy, according to a recent report in The Journal of the American Medical Association. One might understand how this is possible in the large inner-city urban areas, but itís not just there, itís also in rural and small town areas, historically the geo-centers for better youth health. Blame it on the Internet, ipods, TV, junk food, the economy, or whatever, the solutions are far easier to determine than they are to implement.

A 2007 Recreation Forum by the American Recreation Coalition and National Forest Foundation, with the support of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, went right to the heart of the matter. “Today we witness increasing public concern over the diminished physical activity of Americans youth in particular and its impacts on our health and healthcare systems. It has opened our eyes to how a close relationship with the outdoors inspires creativity, better school performance and a commitment to conservation among youth.” Okay, so we’ve “opened our eyes” to problem, but where do we go for the solutions?

I may not be a “Dr. Phil,” but I think as anyone in a parented household knows, economics probably plays a major role in the youth problems we’re seeing today. With both parents (or a single-parent household) working full-time, parents are often too busy making ends meet to be the ideal “full-time parents.” Throw in the fact that the total time the entire family is together may be just an hour or so a day, and many youths are largely left to their own devices, both during and after school. If the youths are involved in extra curricular activities, that further shaves the time spent with their parents. While TV may paint a pretty picture, such as suburban soccer moms and football dads, the social and communication gap between parents and their children in recent years has increasingly grown. Too often the solution is to buy more electronics that keep youths inside or otherwise inactive.

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