As I continue researching the growing disconnect between children and the outdoors, a number of startling statistics continue to amaze me.
It has been estimated that 30 years ago, the average kid spent 4 to 5 hours a day playing in the outdoors and double this time on weekends.
According to a recent study by the National Sporting Goods Association, the number of young people age 7-17 who biked in 2004 was down over 20 percent from 1994. Sales of new bicycles have been on the decline every year for more than a decade.
Angling participation rates have also fallen 10.4 percent in the same decade and for the youngest bracket, age 7-11, the rate has declined by over 25 percent.
In roughly, the same timeframe, the current generation has become increasingly wired, with studies revealing the average teenager now spends upwards of 37 hours a week staring at a screen, whether on a television, video game, computer or a cell phone.
With this knowledge in hand, it is of little wonder that an estimated 16.5 percent of American children, aged 5-19 years, are either overweight or obese. Of even greater concern is the fact that our children are on pace to be significantly fatter than we are by the time they reach adulthood.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in high schools, where kids have more scheduling choices, participation in daily physical education has fallen from 41.6 percent in 1991 to 28.4 percent now.
The current generation may be the first in over a century to have a shorter life span than their parents.
Such facts should prompt families to stay active. It should be an easy and enjoyable task, for across the North Country; we are fortunate to have a wealth of outstanding opportunities to stay fit.
While only a few local towns can boast of a public gym, our natural playing fields are vast. Though pumping iron or participating in an aerobics class will surely burn calories, there is no substitute for recreating in the outdoors.
The fresh air, clean waters and green spaces provide a safe, healthy and interesting environment that is ideally suited for exercise. And often, exercise is simply a secondary benefit to the actual pursuit
In order to lose one pound of weight, a person must burn approximately 3,500 more calories than they consume. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following as the top four activities for calories burned per hour of activity.
Topping the list is chopping and splitting wood, which is not really anyone's ideal choice for a recreational pursuit. This is followed by boxing, cross country skiing and swimming.
Some of the more common outdoor recreational pursuits which are ranked according to calories burned per hour of activity include: Canoeing (2 mph)--255 , Kayaking--285, Hunting--285, Hiking--338, Backpacking--398, Rock Climbing--622 and Mountain Biking--480.
New York Children's Bill of Rights
Following the lead of several states, including California, Maryland, South Carolina and Connecticut; the Child and Nature Network of New York is currently working on the development of a New York Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights California was the first state in the nation to propose a Children's Bill of Right as a result of rising concerns about youth detachment from outdoor activities, lack of physical exercise and increased health risks. California's Bill of Rights stated Mission is to encourage California's children to participate in outdoor recreational activities and discover their heritage. The bill's Objective is that every child in California, by the completion of their 14th year, will have the opportunity to experience each of the activities listed within the California Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. The bill was promptly passed by state legislators and signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Although New York's proposed Children's Bill of Rights has yet to be finalized, the progress to date was presented to the public at The Wild Center's recent event.
The bill includes a number of childhood activities that most Adirondacks have always taken for granted. Yet we often forget, that many children in urban areas don't always have such outdoor activities readily available.
While many may view the Bill of Rights proposal simply as our way of life, we are surely in the minority. The Adirondacks have a population density estimated at 4-9 people per square mile, while Manhattan's population density is an estimated 66,173 pre square mile. Many children don't have the opportunity to see stars, walk a forest trail or swim in fresh water.
Still in the proposal stage, New York's Children's Bill of Rights states that all New York children should have the right to: 1. Feel safe when they explore outside; 2. Wander a trail into the forest; 3. Feel the water of a stream on their bare feet; 4. Breathe in the view from a mountaintop; 5. Discover their true nature; 6. Splash in the water; 7. Fall on their backs in the snow; 8. Bury themselves in a nest of leaves; 9. Sit in the shelter of their own stick fort; 10. Look down on the world from a tree branch; 11. Go into space with the stars on a dark night; 12. Know everyone who scampers around their neighborhood; and 13. Feel the wonder of their world.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org