America's children are experiencing a "crisis of inactivity," first lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday.
"We may well be raising the most sedentary generation of kids in the history of this country," Mrs. Obama said at an event in Washington to promote more healthful lifestyles for youth. "Kids today reportedly spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching TV, playing with cellphones, computer games, video games."
The first lady has made it her cause to combat childhood obesity by promoting more healthful diets and encouraging groceries with fresh produce to move into underserved communities. But she said those efforts are "not enough."
"There is still more to do," she said, "because we all know that the problem isn't just what's happening at meal time or at snack time. It's also about how our kids are spending the rest of their time each and every day."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other ailments.
Mrs. Obama said only 25 percent of children play outside each day, compared with 75 percent of kids 20 years ago. And she said only 18 percent of high school students get the recommended one hour of physical activity per day.
The lack of exercise even affects the military, disqualifying 27 percent of young adults from serving and forcing the Defense Department to spend more on training to get recruits combat-ready, Mrs. Obama added.
"When we're talking about getting kids running around and playing again, it is important to understand that this isn't just about fun and games," the first lady said. "This isn't a joke. It's about their health. It's about their success in school. It's about our economy. It's about our national security."
Her talk at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington was part of her "Let's Move" initiative and the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America. Among those in attendance was former Republican Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, a heart surgeon, and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J.
The first lady encouraged the audience to find new ways to get kids to exercise, suggesting that schools include physical activity in music and math classes, that faith leaders form "exercise ministries" for their congregations and toy manufacturers develop video games "that get kids moving their entire bodies, not just their thumbs."
"We as a society need to redefine for our kids what play is," Mrs. Obama said. "It can be as simple as going for a walk together or just turning on the radio and dancing around in the living room."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.