Dear Task Force on Childhood Obesity:
On behalf of Sierra Club’s 1.3 million members and supporters, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit comments to the Task Force on Childhood Obesity. I commend the efforts of the President, First Lady and the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Education for addressing the epidemic of childhood obesity in America and for providing this opportunity to comment. To comprehensively tackle childhood obesity in a generation, Sierra Club believes it is critical to address the sedentary and indoor lifestyles of American children.
Over the last two decades, the American childhood has shifted from one where kids played outdoors during their free time to one where children spend the bulk of their spare time engaged in indoor and sedentary activities. Today, the average American child spends only four to sevenminutes each day engaged in outdoor activities and over seven and a half hours each day “plugged into” electronic media. Studies show that time spent outdoors in nature increases levels of physical activity, decreases stress, improves cognitive functioning, and improves vision in children and adolescents. Emerging research also suggests that children have lower body mass index when they live in neighborhoods with more green vegetation or in neighborhoods with play areas, like local parks and playgrounds, nearby.
Through a variety of programs, Sierra Club is working hard to connect kids with the great outdoors for their own health and for the health and wellbeing of our planet. Last year, we provided opportunities for over 200,000 youth to get physically active in the great outdoors and we intend to do the same in 2010. The great outdoors is a place where youth can engage in non-competitive physical activity. Outdoor activities and play provide backdrops for kids to get exercise, have fun, and start down a path towards healthier lifestyles.
I encourage the Task Force to make active time outdoors, including outdoor recreation and unstructured outdoor play in nature, an integral element of your recommendations on childhood obesity. Please consider the use of America’s public lands, federal, state and local, as places where children and families can get outdoors together for low-cost (no cost in many cases) quality time together. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on solutions to childhood obesity.
National Youth Representative