My mother swears it never happened.

But I still remember hot, humid summer days when she shooed us outside, and locked the door so she could get things done inside.

My sister and I might have missed the cooler indoor air, but had plenty to do.

For me, that often meant a neighborhood game of baseball or basketball. My sister usually took off on a bike ride with friends.

Staying active never was much of a challenge.

Of course, we didn't have the many temptations that now keep children inside and on the couch no computers, video games or scores of television channels at our disposal. We spent more time playing than watching TV.

It's a very different world today.

Many children don't get enough exercise. Couple that with an explosion of junk food options available at home and school, and the nation faces a health epidemic that promises to cut short many lives.

Their ballooning waistlines mean more young people today are being diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. It's such a threat that many children can expect a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Health officials report that in the past 30 years, obesity among American children age 6 to 11 has more than doubled, from 6.5 percent to 17 percent. Obesity among 12- to 19-year-olds has more than tripled.

But enough of the numbers. As First Lady Michelle Obama said, it's time to stop the hand-wringing over statistics and get moving.

The first lady has launched a national "Let's Move" campaign to encourage children and families to become more active and establish healthier eating habits. Increased physical activity for children, healthier food in schools and more visible food labeling are among the initiatives.

Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics will encourage pediatricians to measure the body mass index of children at wellness visits to determine whether they tend toward obesity.

Congress will be asked to authorize $10 billion over 10 years to improve the quality of school meals, and increase participation in school nutrition programs. Spending $1 billion a year to help counter a trend that now costs the nation $150 billion a year on obesity-related conditions is a prudent investment.

Still, Washington could do more, such as subjecting a beverage industry that produces the sugary drinks that play a huge role in childhood obesity to a soda tax.

And on the local level, governments can encourage youngsters to stay active.

Communities have to make sure children have safe routes to walk and ride to school. Garden City is like many cities that must keep improving sidewalks and exercise paths areas that rightly draw attention in this city's long-range planning.

One intriguing possibility would be adding green space to ensure that Garden City residents wouldn't have to walk more than 10 minutes to get to a park.

Children in particular need easy access to parks, playgrounds and community centers where they can be active. From local parks to the Garden City Family YMCA and Garden City Recreation Commission, many good venues exist.

In the end, it's still up to parents to make sure their children take advantage of opportunities that lead to healthier lives.

Let's just hope they don't have to lock their youngsters outdoors to get them moving.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.