We're in trouble. Diseases related to obesity are riding into our communities at an alarming rate. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer... all on the backs of fat cells. Last Monday, the American Cancer Society released a report on a study published in The Lancet Public Health that examined 12 obesity related cancers between 1995 and 2014. They found a disturbing trend in adults between the ages of 24 to 49. Obesity related cancers - cancers that usually affect older adults in their 60's and 70's, are hitting Millennials to such a degree, that it's actually outpacing the medical progress we're making against those cancers. In other words, we're losing the battle.
They found that the risk for colorectal, endometrial, pancreatic, and gallbladder cancers was about double the rate that baby boomers had at the same age. A CNN article titled For Millennials, cancers fueled by obesity are on the rise, study says explains "Millennials are on their way to being one of the heaviest generations on record."
"Obesity during childhood actually is a major predictor of adult obesity"
Dr. George Chang
Oncology Surgeon, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Conclusion: recently published articles and trends are sending us a dire warning: Get kids off the couch. Get them from out from in front of video games. Give them a fun reason to put down their cell phone and start interacting with the physical world and other humans around them. Let's take a look at the arguments.
What's Going On?
In short, we're getting fat. We're also getting sick and spending a lot of money because of it.
What's Causing This?
The World Health Organization says very simply:
"The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:
- an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and
- an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education."
I won't go into all the reasons why we're struggling with obesity, but the usual round of suspects are featured all over the internet and in the news. Poor nutrition, environmental concerns (bad stuff getting into our food supply), and lack of exercise are the main villains.
Basically, our kids are spending more time on the couch, head's down on their phones, and not eating well. The antidote seems pretty simple: get out and play! But instead of seeing more kids getting involved in youth sports, we're seeing fewer.
Participation Rates in Youth Sports Are Falling
I'd like to call out a recent article published in Forbes magazine by Seth Everett on December 25, 2018 titled Youth Soccer Facing New Challenges in Battle For Kids' Waning Attention. Seth references a study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. They revealed a 14% decline in the percentage of kids from 6-12 years old who are playing soccer. Tom Farrey, the Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program told the New York Times in an article titled Youth Soccer Participation Has Fallen Significantly in America that soccer has lost about 600,000 players.
Looking at both articles, it would seem that both the pay-to-play phenomenon, the lack of good nutrition, and a more sedentary lifestyle are things that you and I can target right now to help us get ahead of this. We know what happens when we don't eat well and we don't exercise. So let's get our kids out onto courts and fields and support their natural desire to run around and have a good time!
It's not easy to start anything new. If we're used to a lifestyle, changing can be hard. Choosing to add physical fitness to our weekly routine can be a major pain in the everything - from our biceps to our wallets, but if we're going to keep the obesity crisis at bay, we must do it.
The good news is, once the new behavior becomes a habit, we want to keep doing that too. So if we force ourselves to eat well and exercise regularly for a period of time - I've heard some say it takes 30 days to form a new habit - then it becomes much easier to maintain. Since most soccer seasons run 8-10 weeks, they seem to be perfectly aligned with new habit creation! How's that for convenient?
The Pay to play thing is something that those of us in the soccer industry need to take very seriously. It's already hard enough for parents and kids to overcome momentum of a lifestyle without exercise, but to make it expensive to overcome on top of everything else is adding insult to injury. We NEED free and low cost play options.
If you're an administrator or a Club official and you want to talk with someone about how you can craft a financial model that makes soccer affordable for families in your area, connect with me on Twitter at SoccerSidelines, on Facebook at The Soccer Sidelines, through my Website at TheSoccerSidelines.com or via email at podcast@theSoccerSidelines.com.
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Childhood obesity is turning into adult obesity. Obesity in general is costing people a lot in terms of increased medical costs. It's killing more people today than it ever has in history. Millennials are giving us a glimpse into what happens as obesity causes cancer in younger and younger people. We need to stop this.
We CAN stop this. We can turn it around and have one heck of a lot of fun doing it. By placing focus on nutrition, exercise, and healthy living habits, we don't need to wait for big pharma to come up with more enabling drugs. We can stop significant diseases before they get started. We can help our kids live longer, live stronger, and be happier.
Find your local youth sports club and get kids signed up now. If registration isn't open yet, then get on a waiting list. If there is no waiting list, then circle a date on your calendar next month and try again. Youth sports is cyclical and will come around again soon. Be sure to be on that next train to fitness.
- LaMotte, Sandee. “For Millennials, Cancers Fueled by Obesity Are on Rise, Study Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 4 Feb. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/02/04/health/obesity-cancer-increase-millennials-study/index.html.
- “Obesity and Overweight.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight.
- Everett, Seth. “Youth Soccer Facing New Challenges In Battle For Kids' Waning Attention.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Dec. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/setheverett/2018/12/15/youth-soccer-facing-new-challenges-in-battle-for-kids-waning-attention/.
- “Epidemiology of Childhood Obesity.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemiology_of_childhood_obesity.
- Drape, Joe. “Youth Soccer Participation Has Fallen Significantly in America.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 July 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/07/14/sports/world-cup/soccer-youth-decline.html.