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Last week, Wellspring’s Family Camp at Pinehurst resort was featured on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric as part of a story about a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Click here to see the story) The study shows a steady decline in physical activity in 1,032 children in 10 different U.S. cities.

The researchers had each child in the study, which ran from 2000 to 2006, wear a small device called an accelerometer, which monitors physical activity, for one week at a time when they were ages 9, 11, 12 and 15.

At ages 9 and 11, more than 90 percent of the children met the recommended level of at least an hour per day of moderate or vigorous exercise. But by age 15, only 31 percent hit the recommended level on weekdays, and just 17 percent met the mark on weekends, the researchers found.

These findings document what we already know to be true: the single biggest change in the environment our children are facing is the shift from physical activity to digital, sedentary activity as the preferred leisure activity for most kids. Of course, it doesn’t help that with nearly of American adults overweight or obese, and only 20% of adults over age 25 engaging in physical activity at least 2x per week, most kids don’t have good role models.

The study was led by Dr. Philip Nader of the University of California at San Diego, who said “We’re dealing with an obesity epidemic. I don’t know what it will take for society to wake up and say, ‘What’s happening here and what can I do?'”

Boys did better than girls, but both showed the same pattern of declining activity as they got older.

Girls fell below the recommended level of an hour a day on average at age 13 for weekdays and age 12-1/2 for weekends. On average, boys slipped below the recommended amount of exercise at age 14-1/2 for weekdays and age 13-1/2 on weekends.

While other weight loss programs prescribe a complex regimen of exercise, Wellspring’s activity goal is simple: At least 10,000 steps per day, every day, measured on a pedometer. At Wellspring Academies and Camps, most kids scoff at 10,000 steps. Wellspring Academy students average 15,000 steps. These students lose about 3 lbs per week. At our Wellspring Camps, campers lose weight even faster (4 lbs per week) and average about 21,000 steps per day.

But 10,000 steps per day remains the goal, and it’s a good goal for kids and adults who are becoming LTWCs at home. Wellspring alumni are remarkably committed to the daily goal of 10,000 steps at home.

What does 10,000 steps mean? Despite the fact that we all take thousands of steps every day, very few people have any idea what 10,000 steps look or feel like. Here’s what it means:

  • Distance: Depending on your stride, walking one mile is usually 2,000 – 2,500 steps. So 10,000 steps means moving 4-5 miles per day on your own two feet.
  • Time: Most people walk one mile in 20 minutes. So moving 4-5 miles can almost always be done in less than two hours.

The good news is that weight controllers are not starting from zero. The average American gets 4,000 steps per day just from moving around, walking from class to class, puttering around the house, etc.So the difference is usually 6,000 steps per day. That’s about an hour of additional walking each day, and less time if the activity involves moving faster than walking.

Getting in an hour of activity each day is not easy. But it’s also not like training for a marathon. Successful long-term weight control simply involves planning and executing an hour of activity each day.

Wellspring’s comprehensive weight loss and behavioral change program can help you and your child set goals and achieve 10,000 steps every day.