When I was a teenager and into my mid to late 20's, fitness just came easy to me. I was involved in sports primarily because my family really encouraged it and went to great lengths to encourage us to be involved in as many sports as possible. I was naturally athletic like a lot of people back in those days and while I'm gonna date myself a bit here a lot of this had to do with the fact that the electronic distractions that we have these days, such as the laptop that I am typing on right now, didn't exist.
We were subjected to whatever happened to be on TV for the 10 channels or so that we had available to us and the programming was designed to be just an hour or so after after school and then more adulty stuff would kick in. We HAD videogames, but they mostly kind of sucked and being outside and playing sports with friends was far more fun.
I remember making up games and playing "war" and basically just running around the neighborhood doing active stuff all the time. I rode my bicycle or walked to school, if I heard about a pick up game of basketball, baseball, football, soccer, you name it, I was in. Whether or not I did very well at it was irrelevant. I remember watching the channel that told you the temperature waiting for it to reach 75 degrees (Fahrenheit of course) because that was the the threshold that my mother had pre-determined was the point we had to reach in order to be allowed to go to the pool.
When we would get to the pool we would basically just go mental for hours. We would be given a dollar for a snack at the snack bar and thinking back on it I can't even imagine how I had enough energy to swim like someone being chased by sharks for hours on end with the power of a Snickers bar being my only fuel.
Fast forward to today and when i go to parks in my area I very rarely see kids doing anything at all. There are sports' leagues but participation is way down. Some of my friends with kids say that their kids will piss and moan about being forced to go and do things that don't involve and Xbox or a tablet of some sort.
I have very fond memories of knowing basically everyone in the neighborhood and we would gather in various yards and if we got tired of playing football we would just make a game up. There would be dozens of us and we probably burned more calories in half an hour than i do in several days now.
I fear for the children of the technological society that we live in now. My friends' kids are basically all overweight and they are only 10 years old or even younger. They throw fits when forced by their parents to do something athletic. They actively avoid sports.
I recall when i was young that we had a sprinkler system and we made a game involving trash can lids as shields and just having a war involving that. Sure sometimes we got hurt, but that was part of growing up. These days kids and perhaps due to their parents lack of conviction, are never put into a position where they could possibly have an injury.
I will admit that when the gaming systems of the late 80's came out and I was a teenager, that my interest in sports declined dramatically as did the desire on the part of a lot of my friends. Gone are the days where kids just wander into the woods and build a fort, instead they make digital ones in Minecraft.
Look at that chart and tell me I am wrong. Electronics started becoming a major part of our lives right around the time that line starts to travel upwards sharply. I don't know what happened in 2003 but maybe the internet went down for a bit or videogames started to suck for a few years.
I run the risk of sounding like an old man here but "back in my day" we didn't have computers in our pockets and we had to do something to pass the time. We had to be active and we loved it. I fear that this will only get worse too because the last time i went to the YMCA, which was WILDLY popular with kids in the 80's, I noticed that there were almost no youth around at all. It was a daily occurrence for me as a kid and sometimes it would be so packed that the basketball games had to be half-court to accommodate the massive amount of kids. The last time I went there was on a weekday evening which was "primetime" for basketball in the 80's and there was maybe 2 or 3 people under the age of 20 in there at all.
If you have kids, I hope you encourage them to get involved in athletics, and not the kind that involves a game controller either. I don't think we have seen the full effect of what sort of health issues that this generation is going to face but I certainly hope that medicine can keep up with it all. For the most part, when I was a kid we were all in such great shape that the "fat kid" in the class was a rarity. These days it seems like most of the kids are fat and even though I am not a parent, it is ultimately your fault if you let this happen to them.