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282 Seven Minutes 2010-09-17

hiking in Death Canyon, Tetons

Because of the recent focus on the President's Outdoor Initiative Program, several studies on outdoors and childhood obesity have come to light. One important, often quoted, study is "Changing Times of American Youth: 1981-2003" by F. Thomas Juster, Hiromi Ono and Frank P. Stafford - Institute for Social Research - University of Michigan.

The paper suggests that children from the sample periods (2002-2003 and 1981-1982) spent an average of less than seven minutes a day in outdoor activities. In the 2002-2003 period, children in the 12-14 age group averaged only 4 minutes a day in outdoor activities!

So I decided to compare my outside time to that of a 12 year old...

Yesterday, 9/16/10:

  • 0430 - (wake up) took dog out on a leash so he would not bark - 5 minutes
  • 0635 - let dog outside to go bark at the fence - stayed out and played with him as Amy, got her bike ready to go to work. - 10 minutes
  • 0715 - Jake's morning walk - 22 minutes
  • 1000 - morning break, play with Jake - 5 minutes
  • 1130 - run - 90 minutes
  • 1300 - walk Jake (this is the cool down from the run) - 30 minutes
  • 1400 - ride bike to get hair cut - 10 minutes
  • 1445 - return from hair cut, have to play with Jake - 15 minutes
  • 1530 - ride to hardware store returned, have to play with Jake - 20 minutes
  • 1630 - house maintenance - about 5 minutes outside
  • 2100 - went out with Jake, last time for the day - 5 minutes

My Total Time - 217 minutes outside (the run was longer than normal) - my daily average would probably be between 150 and 180 minutes

Analyzing my time outside... Our dog, Jake, loves to go for walks and play in the backyard. He is a lot of my outside time. I ride a bicycle instead of driving for routine trips. I love to run. Running helps me stay in shape so I can do other outdoor activities.

I enjoy being outside. I would rather read, write, work, or play outside than inside any day. I make excuses to spend time outside. What baffles me about the study, is how can you spend only 4 minutes a day outside. They must all have garages so they can go directly from inside the house to inside the car!

In the President's Outdoor Initiative there is a correlation drawn between outdoor time and obesity. Children need to learn recreational life skills - such as walking and make a connection with the world outdoors. These recreational skills will help promote fitness for the rest of the child's life.

Turn off the computer, television, and video games. Get outside and break that four minute barrier. A few suggestions ...

Buy a dog! I spend an average of 90 minutes a day outside just walking and playing with Jake. And that is every day - he gives me no days off.

Go to a Park or Greenway - the special areas enhance walking.

Join a recreational club - walking with others helps motivate some folks.

Join a recreational sports league - any sport will do as long as there is movement involved.

Of course these meager answers will not solve the obesity epidemic; but it is a start. Get outside and get your family and friends to join you outside.

Happy more than 7 minutes outside trails


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