Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

The Winter Games are on. I'm not sure if the Winter Games are significantly different than the Summer Games in this aspect, but I find myself marveling at the kids who are performing on the international stage. There are so many teenagers out there who, despite their youth or maybe because of it, are the masters of their universe, the top dogs in their particular field. The figure skaters, snowboarders, aerialists have freshly printed driver's licenses, and still need their folks' permission to see most of the shows at the local megaplex.

So the kids must be alright, then, yeah? If teenagers can compete in the Olympics on a regular basis, then they must all be in tip-top shape, right? Well, that's the dichotomy of our fitness-obsessed culture. Everything that we have learned about nutrition, exercise, and athletic performance has made the top 1% that much better, but there doesn't seem to be much of a trickle-down effect. While more and more kids are making it to the elite ranks of their sport, fewer and fewer kids across the board are getting the recommended levels of exercise.

And maybe it's only an illusion that even the top 1% of kids today are doing better. It might very well just be that marketing and advertising makes these kids more noticeable. After all, Jim Ryan broke the 4 minute mile mark as a 17 year old back in the '60s, and forty years later, the record for the high school 1600m is pretty much right where it was in his day. High school track and field records are not improving at the same rate as elite records are, anecdotal evidence that even the best of the best aren't that much better than their grandparents were.

I'll leave it to the Freakonomics folks to break down the numbers over the years, but I think it's a safe assumption that our kids could use a hand in putting down the remote, the Wii, or the cell phone, and lacing up their running shoes and beating the pavement. And this initiative from out First Lady is a good start.

(Hat tip to One Ordinary Day.)

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