Among all the bad news on the radio as I drove to work this morning, I heard that the Heart Foundation has released data from a new study stating that now 25% of Australian kids are overweight or obese, and that they are tipped to be the first generation EVER to live less than their parents.
This is depressing on so many counts – the emotional/psychological load on these kids because of the behaviours we, as adults, allow them to assimilate; their decreased quality of life; and the financial burden on society… just this point alone has so many ramifications. just ask yourself, who is going to look after their parents in their later years??
Now, I know that we keep talking about changed eating habits, increased screen (tv, computers, etc) time, and decreased movement at school. but lets face it: are these things really to blame? or are we, as the example setting parents/adults allowing and driving our kids towards these behaviours?? I authored an article (A decrease in the association between the physical activity patterns of Australian parents and their children; 1985-1997) published in 2005 in the Journal of Science Medicine and Sport, which showed that not only are kids playing less sport now, but also the strength of our influence over their behaviour seems to be decreasing. I guess all you have to do is look at the empty parks around our neighbourhoods that once upon a time had fathers kicking the footy with their sons…
I think there’s also another force at play here, and that is sport, or at least sports-based Phys. Ed. I think that this model rewards the genetically gifted kids (those that can play sports well, and hence also enjoy it), and not kids who are less coordinated/skilled, who may still be trying hard. We all know what happens to these kids, don’t we? they struggle to pick up the intricacies of the game, are the last picked to be part of teams, and eventually develop lack of self-confidence, which leads to avoidance behaviours. What happened to ‘play’? what happened to the notion that schools should be trying (supposedly) to equip our children to succeed in life as adults? is being able to catch and throw a ball with a Lacrosse stick going to make them more influential and valuable citizens, and fulfilled human beings?? how about instilling in them healthy behaviours; to understand that it is ‘movement’ that will save their lives?
There are programs in the States (of A) that now equip children with Heart Rate monitors and reward (and grade) children based on their relative intensity of work, rather than on their skills. this way all children can work within their skill limits and still achieve great outcomes in health. An interesting concept I think.
So, adults, get out and PLAY with your kids! show them that you enjoy moving and being active; that its not a chore, but a reward! We have amazing bodies, which thrive with movement!