When I was growing up, I'd come home from school at 3:30, drop my bag, run outside, and not come home until my mom called me back in at dusk. All the neighborhood kids would be out, and we would spend hours riding bikes, playing tag, organizing games of hide-and-go-seek, roller skating, playing basketball -- you name it.
That was in Grand Prairie, Texas, outside of Dallas, where summers were hot, but that never kept us inside. You couldn't get me to stay inside for anything.
Now? I come home to my Texas neighborhood, and there isn't one single kid outside. Maybe it's the computers, or the video games, or the air conditioning, but it looks and feels different. And this generation of children looks and feels different as a result. They're heavier, and not as healthy or happy, and it's pretty clear to me why.
These kids need to get up and move. Now. It's summer. It's warm. The whole world is waiting outside. If you're out running around, it's harder to be eating cookies and chips than if you're sitting in front of the TV. I see this issue all the time -- I even work with brands like Jamba Juice on their Team Up for a Healthy America initiative to encourage children to live a healthier lifestyle, to eat better and to be more active.
But here's the thing -- kids can't do this alone. I'm a professional athlete -- if I don't work out every day, I'm out of a job. But kids have a harder time seeing the long-term consequences of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle -- consequences like diabetes and heart disease and problems sleeping.
So who can help them see the consequences? We can, and we must. If we don't make them get up off their butts, they may well sit in front of the TV all day. If you follow the news, you see that funding for school fitness programs is being cut back all the time, After-school sports programs and physical education classes are being eliminated. When this happens, it's up to us, at home, to step in and fill the gap, demonstrating an active lifestyle and filling the cupboards with healthy foods.
And when we do -- something else will happen. When a child looks in the mirror and sees an overweight person staring back, they won't feel good about that person. We live in an image-conscious society, for better or worse. When a child looks in the mirror and sees a fit, healthy version of themselves? They will feel good -- good enough to go outside and be part of the world.
If you do one thing this summer, get outside and get active. Click here to join the thousands who have already taken a health pledge with me and Team Up for a Better America.