With their smartphones and tablets, in a world where stranger danger rules, should we be surprised that children are growing up less active than their parents? A new report released today by non-profit health body ukactive lays out the problems our young people will face if things don't change. And it's up to us of course - parents, teachers and policy makers, to make a difference.
Ukactive says that for the first time, younger generations are growing up less fit and active than their parents. Its report, Start Young, Stay Active, calls on government, education providers and everyone involved in childhood development to recognise the importance of physical activity. Crucially, it also encourages parents to take a more active role in getting their children moving.
Why do we need to be told to do this? Are we too busy at work to get out and about with our children? Are they too hooked on tvs and playstations to want to ride their bikes or play in the park? Are we too scared to let them out?
These, of course, are not genuine barriers. Making time to do things with your children is part of parenting. Televisions and playstations have their place and we as parents have to control the role they play in the lives of our young. To use them as excuses for not going on a family bike ride is lazy.
The ukactive report highlights why physical activity in children is so important. Activity in the early years is a strong indicator of future behaviours including educational attainment, health and happiness. Simple games played in early childhood help improve co-ordination, confidence, and grow a sense of achievement. Sedentary behaviour in children can lead to an increase in social and emotional health concerns.This all sounds so obvious, yet here's what's also important: Parent attitudes can make a big impact on a child's future perception of exercise.
Put simply, if we don't get out there with our kids, if we don't take them to the playground, take them swimming, take them for walks - do anything active that we enjoy - they won't want to do it when they are older. If we don't make being active a way of life, they won't be active later in life. So, when it counts, when they need to keep moving to stay fit and strong, when they need to exercise to keep their hearts healthy - they won't be in the habit of doing it.
Adults today are trying to change their way of life through initiatives such as Fitspiration. If Fitspiration works, younger generations won't need internet campaigns to prompt them to be more active. They'll have already grown up feeling like daily activity is normal. They will be used to the adrenalin rush that comes with a good workout. They'll not think twice about walking somewhere instead of jumping in the car. They'll love getting out for a run in the fresh air.
This is, of course, obvious stuff. But we're obviously not listening if our children are still sitting on the sofa instead of kicking a ball around outside.
As parents, we owe it to our very young to ensure they are active. We have a responsibility to safeguard their health and give them the best chance at preserving that health when they are older. We have a role to play in growing their confidence and in providing them with opportunities to feel proud of their achievements. We can do all this by making sure we are active and we take them along on that journey of activity with us.
The Huffington Post Fitspiration campaign will then be a success if it can change habits. If readers are moved to live more active lives, the changes they make will have a knock on effect on the lives of younger generations. If adults can be inspired to become fitter and stronger, the children whose lives they touch will do the same.
In addition, by getting out there with our children, by making physical activity a simple part of our every day lives as families, we will give our children a gift they will always have with them. This isn't something we can afford to make excuses about.