The Crisis of Youth Fitness
“Back when I was a kid . . .”,   said every parent who ever raise a child, whether in 2020 or 1620.

 It’s true.  Life is always changing, and our kiddos will never have the same experience we had growing up; just like we didn’t have the same experience our parents had.

For one, youth in 2020 have so many more opportunities to access information and education than we ever would have dreamt of in the 1980’s and 90’s.  Communication, travel, health care, and entertainment have likewise advanced and connect our world in a way that has never before been possible.

However, there is one area that is of great concern for myself and many others in healthcare and fitness. And that is the epidemic of childhood obesity. 

According to the CDC, the percentage of childhood obesity is 13.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% among 12- to 19-year-olds1 

Combine with the fact that according to the National Institutes of Health, obesity and overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, close behind tobacco use; with an estimated 300,000 deaths per year attributed to the obesity epidemic!2

As a parent, this is probably not at all surprising to you.  Kids these days are surrounded by instant virtual fun.  Video games, YouTube, Social Media, and television provide more than enough entertainment to keep little Jonny and Suzie ‘busy’ all day long. 

So what’s a parent to do? 

First and foremost, we must lead by example.  Many of us adults have likewise gotten quite lax in the area of diet and exercise.  Fast food and a quick DVD seems the perfect way to unwind after a busy day.  And the computer makes a cheap baby sitter.  So let’s just agree to start by taking an honest look at the story we are telling and then decide what we can do about it.
Second, grocery shopping needs to be intentional.  Fresh unprocessed foods, an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and a very limited number of snacks in the home makes it much easier to encourage healthier eating. 

Finally, we need to be detectives in discovering what kind of physical activities each of our unique children find engaging.  Some like team sports, others like the great outdoors, and other like a challenge.  As the owner of Bliss Climbing and Fitness, I am frequently blessed to have a parent come up to me and explain how their child just didn’t like any physical activity until he or she tried one of our rock climbing programs.  Of course, climbing isn’t for every kid.  Some just don’t get into it, just like some don’t get into basketball.  The point is that we need to find that one or two things that really do get their blood pumping (literally and figuratively); and that often requires quite a bit of experimentation.  But the results are so worth it. 

We are instilling habits into our children every day.  Habits of values, work ethic, kindness, and of course, fitness.  Those values will follow them the rest of their lives.  Let’s learn to be as intentional with their health as we are with their learning. 

Rejecting Mediocrity and Following My Bliss


David Kortje is a Family Physician in Wichita Kansas and the owner of Bliss Climbing and Fitness ( ), Wichita’s only full service rock climbing and fitness center.  He is married with 4 children and 3 grand children, and is passionate about diet, exercise and of course, rock climbing.