American kids are less active, less healthy and more overweight than ever before. Historically, children haven’t experienced the same weight problems as adults, but nowadays things are different. Recent studies show that 15% of children in the U.S. are overweight and 16% are obese. Why the change? Many estimate that too-large portions of food, excessive junk food and less active play time have created a lethal combination for kids today. In fact research by organizations such as Clif Kids show that kids spend 56% more time in front of screens than they do playing outside, and Designed to Move notes that just one in three U.S. children is active on a daily basis. Worse, research from Designed to Move shows that by the time children move into adolescence, their preferences and motivations for physical activity, or anything else, is already hardwired into them. Meaning, we can’t let kids sit around, eating junk when they’re young and still expect them to grow into active, healthy adults.

Due to the depressing situation outlined above, NIKE, Inc. President & CEO Mark Parker and First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced Nike’s commitment to get kids moving. Over the next five years, NIKE, Inc. plans to invest a staggering $50 million in order to increase the physical activity of U.S. kids in schools and communities as well as target advocacy and education efforts to inspire kids and draw additional resources to the effort.

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Many Nike athletes are on board with the goal to kids moving. Serena Williams, Bo Jackson, Allyson Felix, Gabby Douglas, Paul Rodriguez, Ashton Eaton, Colin Kaepernick and Sarah Reinertsen all joined in with nearly 6,000 local Chicago school kids to help deliver the awesome Nike announcement. Part of Nike’s commitment will focus on Let’s Move! Active Schools, a comprehensive school activity program that aims to empower and encourage schools to create more active environments so that all students can get moving and reach their full potential. These efforts are vital in the United States — where study after study shows that obese children may have more structural abnormalities of the brain and experience lower cognitive function than kids who are not obese, plus less fit kids are more likely to fail math and reading tests than their aerobically fit peers. Beyond the fact that less fit kids do worse in school, excess weight and a total lack of physical activity can result in extreme health consequences for youth including liver, lung, heart and musculoskeletal complications, obesity-related diabetes, risk for stroke and heart attack later in life, asthma, heart disease and cancer — and these are just a few possible health problems inactive, overweight kids face.

It’s awesome that Nike and Michelle Obama are getting involved, but be aware that parents, not other factors have been shown to play the biggest role in how healthy a child is are (or isn’t). Although kids today are clearly out of shape, research shows that not only are a vast majority of parents in denial about unhealthy kids, many try to thwart efforts to educate families about weight and activity because they feel discussing these issues will do more harm than good. As a parent, it’s your job to encourage your child to eat right and get moving. Nike can’t do it alone. See the links below for some helpful tips.

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Lead image © NIKE, Inc.