We all know America has grown in population—and in girth. We have the fattest and least conditioned population on planet earth.
But we’re living longer. A lot longer. (1900 average life span: 47 years; in 2000: 77 years). Huh? We all know being overweight and sedentary causes lots of major health problems, so what’s going on?
Our much maligned health care system’s superb detection and treatment technology is what’s going on. So, guess why the cost of healthcare keeps going up? Demand. The need for more and more care because we aren’t taking care of ourselves.
So, is that the “Ticking Time Bomb”? Nope. Not even close. That’s just setting the stage.
Tick…tick…tick…childhood obesity. The current adult generation was comparatively active and lean as kids. They had fewer fast-food options, more physical education in school and played outside in their neighborhoods until dark. They didn’t have computer addiction, and many didn’t even have remote controls to their televisions. Daily living wasn’t as full of “automatic” things, i.e. car windows were actually rolled down—remember that? And now as adults, heart disease and diabetes rates are climbing out of control.
The rate of childhood obesity has tripled since 1970. Remember the term “adult onset diabetes?” That was to identify it as developed from lifestyle, not from birth. Why don’t we hear that anymore? Because too many of our children are developing it. It’s now called “Type 2 diabetes.”
Daily PE classes in U.S. schools:
elementary, 8 percent; middle, 6.4 percent; high school, 5.8 percent. Combining that with simple carbohydrate lunches and school vending machines makes it clear that this is a job for parents and families. We can’t imagine how bad the exploding health problems and costs are going to be for our children. Unless we act now.
If you exercise regularly and practice good label-reading nutrition, you probably have active kids, maybe even participating in team and individual sports.
If you skip breakfast, are a fast-food regular, know what junk food is but buy it anyway because it’s easy and the whole family likes it, come home from work and grab a beer and the remote…you get the picture. And so do your kids. If that sounds even a little like you, your kids are paying for it.
The good news is we can do something about it. And what your kids need is exactly what will benefit you too. Improve. It’ll benefit you now, and your kids forever. For your kids, these are habit and tissue-forming years. All fat cells allowed to develop are like lifelong receptive sponges. They’re always waiting and always a problem. Active kids get less of them. Help your kids—who don’t understand this—kids are instant gratification slaves. Forget that stupid little aphorism: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Practice some preventive maintenance. Give “preemptive” a positive spin.
Change your oil before things break down. Be a parent. Take charge.
While ages 13 to 18 are great years to help shape a young person (they actually listen to us more than they let on), the growth years of 7 to 13 are the key physical opportunity to reduce the chance of future heart disease and other related health problems.
Remember, kids need the same things adults do: improved nutrition, cardiovascular (walking, running) activity, more lean muscle/less body fat and good joint range of motion (flexibility).
Science has clearly proven that strength training can be safe and effective for ages 7 and up. The nervous system has almost fully developed, so improved coordination (brain to muscle communication) is highly trainable with lifelong benefits. That’s why, if trained in correct biomechanics, kids develop strength gains before increase in muscle size. And through physical play, as additional benefits, they improve balance, speed, agility, quickness, reaction time—all as a result of improving their neuromuscular (mind to muscle) signals. Just by playing and having fun.
Encourage it; schedule it.
After you limit their computer/TV time, do some helpful research. Try www.acefitness.org/ofk/youthfitness, www.actionforhealthykids.org and www.shapeup.org/prof/child.php.
If raising kids teaches us anything about all our relationships with others, it is that we don’t control outcomes. We have a lot of control over our intentions, some control over our actions, but outcomes? Nope.
So, relax. Just set a good example, and hopefully, one family at a time, we can have a positive impact on what is, without exaggeration, the growing problem that is ticking our children’s lives away.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
• Eat a healthy breakfast, i.e. whole grain cereal with fruit and skim milk.
• Eliminate junk food from the home: sodas, crackers, chips, pizza, pasta, white rice, candy, cookies, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, fried anything…
START IN THE STORE
• Learn to read labels and teach your kids.
• Don’t focus on calories. Susceptibility to eating disorders is too dangerous, particularly by our daughters who are often trying to emulate ridiculous airbrushed paper-thin role models. Instead, focus on healthy choices. We all need calories; just make them nutritious. And then increase activity to burn more.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
• Commit to a daily walk, preferably when the kids are home.
• Develop a brief comprehensive calisthenics and flexibility routine you can do daily, preferably when the kids are home. Okay, you’re thinking you’re already pretty busy when the kids are home. But you’re not doing anything as important as improving your health and increasing your energy while being a good role model.
KEEP IT FUN
• Find some additional play activities that kids will like.
• Local rec leagues have numerous opportunities.
DO SOME OF IT TOGETHER
• In addition to finding some team sports for
the kids, invite them into your activities too.