This may be the first generation of kids to not outlive their parents. Approximately 23.5 million U.S. children are obese or overweight. That's almost 1 in 3 children, which is unacceptable. Making the situation even more dire is the fact that these children are more than likely to continue on this path well into adulthood, bringing with them a whole host of medical complications such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer. However, if we make physical activity part of their regular routine and change mindsets about exercise, our children will excel beyond their wildest dreams.
Fighting obesity has to be a priority not only for our children's sake, but also because it is costly. In fact, the estimated cost to our health care system is between $147 billion and $240 billion annually. While Colorado has one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation (20.2 percent of residents are considered obese), the overall health costs to the state is still more than $1.63 billion. We can and should do better to ensure a healthier Colorado.
While there are several reasons as to the root cause of obesity, the lack of physical activity is the biggest factor. If children, and parents for that matter, rallied around the simplicity of just getting out and moving, we'd see a significant difference in overall health. Physical activity has waned over the past 30 years due to reasons such as the elimination of recess and the advent of video games. Today, technology has become the Achilles heel for kids. They are more sedentary than ever before thanks in large part to them being glued to their phones, computers and tablets.
We need to change this mentality for the future of our children and our country. Being active, whether it's playing outside, riding a bike, or participating in sports will make a positive difference in the lives of our kids. It will boost their confidence, help them focus and put them on an upward spiral to success.
Now Colorado students have the same opportunity. We've teamed up with Gov. Hickenlooper to provide taxpayer free fitness centers to three elementary/middle schools in this great state. This public/private partnership is a huge step in the right direction in helping our kids get fit. Not only will the newfound physical activity change bodies, but academic performance will improve and self-esteem will skyrocket. This program has been successfully implemented in states all over the country and has led to a newfound enthusiasm for working out and getting fit. These fitness centers have become part of the fabric of the community, and we expect the same thing to happen in Colorado. Making all of this even more appealing is the fact that we are seeing test scores rise and sick days drop.
When you give the schools the tools, amazing things will happen. Our children are our most precious resource, and when our kids are strong, the future of our nation will be strong.
Jake Steinfeld is chairman and CEO of Body by Jake and serves as the Chairman of the National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils.