Washington youth not getting enough exercise, report finds

((Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

Kids in Washington are not moving nearly enough, a state task force concludes in a new report, especially in underserved communities.

The state legislature commissioned a task force to study dwindling physical activity in youth, especially in underserved areas. Their report says, before the pandemic, only around 24% of kids grades 6–12 were getting an hour of physical activity a day, the amount recommended by the CDC to maintain physical and mental fitness.

That number has remained basically consistent since 2012, and is below the national average of 28%. But, the problem is even worse for young kids of color, low-income families and those with physical disabilities and health problems, the report notes.

"Studies have shown that when kids exercise, their health improves. So does their school attendance and mental well-being," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "Kids who don’t have those opportunities are more likely to live shorter lives with greater health care costs and fewer chances to succeed. We must look for innovative ways to get more kids exercise and to get the most out of our existing facilities."

The task force's report aims to bump that number up, and get kids moving more. Recommendations include:

  • Designating schools as community hubs or civic centers
  • Financial incentives for school districts to adopt community hub policies
  • Campaign to educate school leaders on the connection between schools as community assets and passing levies
  • Fund four pilot projects for shared-use school facilities
  • Change state grant review processes to include shared-use facilities
  • Use the Athletic Fields and Facilities Inventory to plan and gather information on local assets
  • Fund a statewide study to explore inequitable gaps in youth physical activity compared to education, juvenile justice and health care costs

"Shared-use agreements have the potential to give underserved youth access to more places where they can improve their overall wellness," said Lydia Faitalia, a member of the state’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and the task force. "We need to hold state and local governments accountable to ensure shared-use agreements provide equitable and inclusive access."

You can read the findings of the task force here.

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