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The Summer Sloth Syndrome

Brett Klika C.S.C.S.

For many youngsters, summer is a time for “free time.”  No school, homework, or daily structure.  It’s truly time to “be a kid.”  Ah, the carefree days of being a kid… doing mom’s list of chores, playing every ball (real and made up) game with the neighbor kids, riding bikes, and getting into all kinds of summer adventures.  Those activities represent childhood to many adults, and to some of today’s youth as well.  Unfortunately, the statistics paint a very different picture for the majority of today’s kids.  One of the stats I found most unsettling was out of a 7-year study of child behavior from the late 90’s to the mid 2000’s.  It was discovered that only 1 in 5 youth does any outdoor physical activity aside from organized sport practice.  Compound that with the observation that over 70% of youth drop out of organized sports after the 8th grade and you can see that “being a kid” means organized sports, or nothing.

If we want to make a difference in the health of our future generations, let’s use this summer “free time” to get kids back to “being a kid.”  Here are 6 ideas to get your kids off the couch and having fun.

1. Have them go to bed and get up at a reasonable time.  Youth do need more sleep, but sleeping until 12 does more harm than good.  Aside from the temporary effects of throwing off natural circadian rhythms resulting in fatigue, irritability, etc., it starts to create unfunctional habits that can last a life time.  As adults, we NEED to have expectations for our kids.  Various research has displayed that something as simple as having daily chores combined with regular sleep and wake cycles can create positive habits for life.

2. Sign them up for non-sport activities.  There are swimming, surfing, fitness classes, rock climbing, etc.  Kids need to know that playing outside and being physical can be a life-long hobby, not just a means to “get a scholarship” (for the 1% of 40 million young athletes that will receive a full division 1 scholarship.  Stats are worse for males)

3. Don’t allow the term “I’m bored.”  That excuse is probably my favorite.  It was a rule in my house growing up, and it paid its dividends a million times.  How can anyone be bored when there’s a lawn to mow, gardens to be weeded, chores to be done, or cars to wash?  I told my mom I was bored one time.  Miraculously, I found ways to occupy my time after that.

4. Teach them some games you used to know. Games like water gun fights or capture the flag were always my favorite ones.  We have to teach them how to play again.

5. Take control of technology.  You are the parent.  No video games or television during the day time may sound harsh, but it’s amazing how many worth-while outlets kids will find without constant technology.  I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks that our kids being inside with technology all day is a good thing.  We need to take a stand.

6. Lock them out.  I actually got this idea from quite a few frustrated parents that just started essentially locking the door for an hour or two every day so kids had to be outside.  Of the 4 or 5 parents I talked to about this, they ALL said it worked great to get their kids more active outside.  Again, we need to do something.  No one can tell me things are “going in the right direction.”

Let’s help make a change this summer.  Don’t allow the summer sloth to move into your house.  Let’s work together to create a generation of happy, healthy, pain-free adults!

Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a human performance specialist, motivator and educator. A graduate from Oregon State University, Brett has directed sport camps all over the nation. While in college, amidst playing club soccer and lacrosse, Brett worked with the strength and conditioning department for 3 years. A year long resident sports performance internship at the Olympic Training Center brought Brett to San Diego. Brett’s work with the Olympic athletes, as well as local high school athletes nurtured a passion for creating excellence in individuals.

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