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Most kids in King County do not get enough exercise, according to a new UW study

Seattle Parks and Recreation

Our region is known for its outdoor beauty, but most youth in King County are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, according to a new report from the University of Washington.

Only 19 percent of children in King County get 60 minutes of daily physical activity, which is the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, King County trails the national average in the percentage of kids who get enough exercise.

And there are big divides in terms of which kids take part in organized sports and which ones do not. Young people in King County who speak a language other than English at home are much less likely to participate in organized sports than kids from English-speaking families. Similarly, kids of color are less likely to have taken part in organized sports than white children.

Julie McCleery, research associate with the University of Washington Center for Leadership in Athletics, was principal investigator on the study, which also was published by King County Parks and the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. McCleery said many families say they can't afford to pay for their kids to take part in sports.

“Programs that run upwards of $300, $400, $500 for a season were just out of reach for too many people in the region,” she said.

There are a number of other reasons why young people don't get enough physical activity. Some schools aren't giving kids the state-required 100 minutes per week of physical education for grades 1-8. And some schools limit the amount of recess kids get during the school day because of pressure to focus on academics.

Access to parks also plays a role — South King County in particular has poor transit access to play areas.

McCleery said one solution is to find ways to open up school playfields and gyms outside of school hours.

“The big recommendation is that we collectively start thinking about schools as a hub for community physical activity,” she said. “We heard from families, youth and program leaders that schools are the most equitable place to serve youth.”

The report also recommends that the state school accountability framework include youth physical activity as a benchmark that gets tracked and that Washington require statewide standards on recess.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.