Houston’s “Fitness Czar” Samir Becic‘s new campaign is heating up! With his focus on promoting health and fitness, Samir is no stranger to campaigning- in fact, he famously ran 7 marathons in 8 weeks wearing a 73.5 lbs weighted vest to promote awareness and lived for 6 weeks with a 300 lbs weighted suit to better understand obesity. Reaching national and international levels with his campaigns, he recently sent dedicated and signed books of his HarperCollins published “Resync Your Life” to U.S. political leaders in order to inspire them to continuously motivate Americans to live a healthier and fitter lifestyle.
But, health and fitness are not all he advocates for. A topic near and dear to his heart has always been children. One of his many passions includes helping combat the childhood obesity epidemic by giving kids the information and tools they need to stay healthy and active throughout their lives. With the continuing rise of childhood obesity rates, it is pertinent for him to offer his assistance with implementing more physical activity programs. As part of this campaign, he reached out to the Superintendents of all 53 schools within the City of Houston, Harris County, and greater Houston, then the 120 largest school districts in the state of Texas, and then the 80 most prominent private schools in Texas, and finally, the 100 largest school districts nationwide.
By continuously volunteering his time and efforts of youth fitness through speeches, seminars for school nutritionists, and many partnerships with organizations focused on childhood fitness and nutrition, Samir has compiled his knowledge in a letter that he is sending the 100 largest school districts in America explaining the importance of childhood fitness. Samir believes that with proper training and information, students will grow into the powerful young leaders of tomorrow while imparting the core values that our non-profit represents- health, fitness, life balance, perseverance, hard work, determination, and respect to their friends, families, and communities.
Exercise is a major factor for proper child development. For adults, that means going for a run and hitting the gym to lift weights, but for children, physical activity is them running around at recess, their gym period in school, and chasing their friends around lunch. Unfortunately, recent statistics found by the CDC have found that less than 24% of children aged 6-17 years of age participate in physical activity daily. This statistic is very low, in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations for exercise:
- Infants: physical movement several times a day through interactive floor-based play.
- Kids ages 3 to 5: 3 hours or more of physical activity every day.
- Kids 6 to 17 years old: 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
Lack of health and education fitness is taking a toll on the youth. Obesity rates and trends are becoming more prevalent, with data showing some shocking statistics:
- In 2020, data found that 16.2% of youth aged 10-17 around the U.S. were obese
- In 2020, data collected showed that 15.1% of highschool students drank soda at least once a day
- In the U.S. alone, medical costs for childhood obesity is to reach 14 billion annually
- Data found by the CDC concluded that obesity rates are prevalent at 13.4% (2- 5 yrs), 20.3% (6- 11 yrs), and 21.2% (12-19 yrs).
- The CDC found that 25.6% were Hispanic children, 24.2% were non-Hispanic Black children, 16.1% were non-Hispanic White children, and 8.7% were non-Hispanic Asian children.
- Research from the CDC found that obesity was prevalent in 18.9% of children aged 2-19 in the lowest income group, 19.9% in those in the middle-income group, and 10.9% in the highest income group.
In order to keep the youth developing to their full potential, keeping them physically active will benefit them tremendously. In a day and age where technology is taking over and sedentary living is increasing, it is important to understand the benefits of physical activity and make sure children are reaping its benefits. What are the physical benefits you may ask?:
- Improve cardiorespiratory fitness
- Build stronger bones and muscles
- Control weight
- Reduce risk of developing life-threatening conditions (heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, etc.)
Not only are the benefits physical, but also cognitive:
- Improves memory and processing speed
- Improves attention span (resulting in better grades)
- Better sleep schedule
- Better mood
- Reduces stress, anxiety, & depression
- Builds confidence
- Reduces the risk of future drug and alcohol abuse
- Reduces chances of becoming a victim to bullying
No one wants their child to be a victim of bullying, and unfortunately, it is common for children who are overweight to become targets of bullies. In fact, in a study done in 2015 with 947 school children with weights ranging from normal weight to overweight, it was found that the children who were overweight were more likely to be bullied than those who were not. Here is what they concluded:
- 18.5% of severely obese children were excluded from group activites as opposed to 5.4% of children who have no excess weight and 10.4% overweight children.
- 44.4% of children who were severely obese were victims of name-calling compared to 10.1% children who are at an average weight and 20.6% overweight children.
- 21% of children who were severely obese were physically victimized to bullying as opposed to 5.4% average weight children and 8.7% overweight children.
But, overweight and obese children aren’t only victims of bullying, it is also common for them to become bullies themselves. In fact, a study found that overweight and obese children become bullies as a defense mechanism to discourage their counterparts from bullying them first.
When engaging in physical activity, children are working on building their strength, endurance, and flexibility, so it is important to encourage these behaviors with aerobic exercises (plus, it’s easy and fun!):
- Take them to the park so they can freeplay (encourages running and jumping)
- Riding a bicycle
- Using a hula hoop
- And just about anything that will get them moving!