Wow. What a fantastic Olympics.
The amazing 104 medals won by our Olympians in London are well worth celebrating, but these victories mask an alarming truth about our youth. While the few -- like our Olympic athletes -- can do amazing things, millions can do little more than watch.
When I was a teenager competing in the 1960s, kids were healthier, less overweight and more involved in outdoor activities like pickup games and informal play. President John F. Kennedy had given his full support to the newly named President's Council on Physical Fitness, and schools were committed to getting our young people into shape.
Since then, the obesity rate among school-age children has more than tripled. The consequences are everywhere. Nearly one in four teenagers today is diabetic or pre-diabetic, and 25 percent of young adults are too overweight to join the military.
Children are not exercising enough. I can still recall doing mandatory sit-ups and chin-ups to meet our school's physical education requirements. Today in California, fewer than 15 percent of 17-year-olds participate in daily physical fitness at school. Recent tests show that one third of ninth-grade students lack basic aerobic capacity, almost one-quarter lack basic upper-body strength and more than one-third are overweight.
In the 1960s, two out of five children rode their bikes or walked to school. Today it's nearly one in eight.
Incredibly, problems get worse
Here are three ways to turn this crisis around.
Childhood obesity is a potential game changer for the United States. By 2030, if current trends continue, 32 million more Americans will become obese, increasing obesity rates to 42 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's going to impact every aspect of our lives, from business to the military to the Olympics.
I am working with other athletes and coaches to form a coalition to advocate on the local, state and national level for solutions to the fitness crisis. While I was fortunate to learn early in life the many benefits of staying fit and eating properly, many Americans of my generation only now are becoming aware that both are critical to living a long and engaging life.
We all need to devote ourselves to what our Olympic athletes so fully represent: America's competitive spirit. More exercise and healthier eating are keys to ensuring that our children will be able to compete in an increasingly competitive world.
Peggy Fleming won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1968. She is a native of San Jose and lives in Los Gatos. She wrote this for this newspaper.