By Angela Lumpkin
Sedentary lifestyles threaten the health of millions of Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports
that over one-third ( 34. 9 percent or 78.6 million) of adults are obese, with obesity-related
conditions including heart disease, stroke, type
2 diabetes and certain types of cancer directly
associated with obesity ( http://www.cdc.gov/
obesity/data/ adult.html). As alarming as
these facts are, even more serious is what is
happening to today’s youth. Approximately 17
percent of children and adolescents (or 12. 7
million) between 2 and 19 years are obese
Children today are increasingly inactive.
Thousands of school physical education classes have been eliminated in the wake of an emphasis on achievement standards and tests.
Additionally, unsafe or non-existent play spaces in lower socio-economic neighborhoods
along with nearly 50 percent of school-aged
children living in single-parent homes or with
dual-career parents (http://futureofchildren.
docs/21_02_04.pdf) have led to latch-key lifestyles and nearly eliminated free play.
Several initiatives have called attention to
how the lack of physical activity has contribut-
ed to the obesity crisis in youth. The National
Association for Sport and Physical Education
developed “Let’s Move in School,” an initiative
that joined with First Lady Michelle Obama’s
“Let’s Move.” Today “Let’s Move! Active
Schools” advocates for 60 minutes of daily
physical activity for students in K- 12 schools
( http://www.letsmoveschools.org/). The Na-
tional Football League promotes children
being active 60 minutes a day through NFL
Play 60 ( http://www.nflrush.com/play60).
“Exercise Is Medicine” is a global health initia-
tive of the American College of Sports Medi-
cine that encourages physicians and other
health care providers to include physical activi-
ty when recommending treatment plans for pa-
tients of all ages (http://www.exerciseismedi-
cine.org/support_page.php?p=15). Using the
endowment of funds from the 1984 Los Ange-
les Olympic Games, the LA84 Foundation
awards grants to youth sport organizations in
California as well as conducts youth sport and
coaching education programs that have be-
come national models ( http://www.la84.org/
about/). Fields and Futures serves the Oklaho-
ma City Public Schools through its goal to
grow student participation in sports by rebuild-
ing 44 athletic fields and providing professional
development for 265 coaches (https://field-
In 2013, The Aspen Institute’s Sports and
Society Program created Project Play, which
proposes a national roadmap for systemic
change for helping children become more ac-
tive through sports. The goals for Physical Lit-
eracy in All Youth (PLAY) are:
1. Healthy kids are active kids.
2. Extend the benefits of playing sports to
all kids regardless of socio-economic
3. Build healthy communities.
4. Eliminate barriers to sport participation.
5. Provide neighborhood recreational
6. Remediate the inadequacy of coaching.
7. Address rising costs of sport
8. Eliminate exclusionary policies, teams
9. Reduce excessive time demands of sports
10. Ensure safety of all participants.
To meet these challenges, Project Play advo-
cates for making sports fun, reintroducing free
play, ensuring opportunities to sample multiple
sports, revitalizing town recreational sport
leagues, using play spaces optimally by think-
ing small, emphasizing development of physi-
cal literacy, training all coaches and emphasiz-
ing injury prevention. If each community en-
acted this roadmap or joined with other initia-
tives, the obesity epidemic could be reversed.
Angela Lumpkin (Society Vice
President for Fellowships and Awards) is
Professor and Department Chair for the
Department of Health, Exercise and Sport
Sciences at Texas Tech University. She is
the author of 23 books, more than 60
scholarly publications, and upwards of
240 professional presentations. She has held administrative
positions at numerous universities, leadership roles in many
pofessional organizations, and coaching posts for women’s
college basketball teams. Email her at angela.lumpkin@ttu.
Play for Life