A blog designed to create a New Years resolution to save your family.
“Today’s children are less fit than their parents.” This recent headline in the New Zealand Herald has prompted a last minute change of topic for this latest missive. It is, sadly, an accurate snapshot of the alarming decline of the health and fitness of our nation’s youth. A recent metanalysis by the American Heart Foundation examined 50 studies involving 25 million children in 28 countries (including New Zealand) between 1964 and 2010. The results showed a 5% decline in cardiovascular fitness per decade, coupled with ever increasing obesity rates. It is estimated that these trends will cost the US over $344 billion annually in healthcare costs alone by 2018!
New Zealand is not far behind. I have personally seen the change occurring here since I first arrived some 20 years ago. The raw boned bodies honed on farms and rugby paddocks have given way to flabby overweight youths, their question mark postures testimony to their sedentary virtual lives. When humans (or any other animal) are physically inactive their muscles, bones and connective tissues do not develop the strength and integrity to carry them through their later years. I know of one teenage boy who recently dislocated his hip on a class jog around flat, school grounds, his body too weak and deconditioned to withstand even this modest activity. What will his situation be in 20 years time?
Organisations like SPARC have tried to reverse this trend through “Push Play” and other initiatives with some success. Budget constraints have, however, led to “Push Play” being discontinued. Former head of SPARC, Sir John Wells (a long term client of mine), views this move as short sighted, describing a nation’s health as its “Social Capital.” Obesity and its related diseases not only drain healthcare resources unnecessarily, but also cost the country in lost productivity and tax revenue.
In addition to inactivity, the increasingly processed diet – again following the American model – is another huge cause of declining health and fitness. Many New Zealanders now rely on microwaved TV dinners and fast food to get their families through their busy weeks. Often, these artificially flavoured and coloured concoctions are barely recognisable as food. Developing bodies and brains glean little sustenance from such processed pap, to say nothing of the plethora of compounds they then have to detoxify.
Yet another pernicious influence on our youth is the overprotective cocoon we have allowed to be enveloped around our children, discouraging any activity with the slightest risk of injury. I once had an exchange with a former teacher of my daughter’s who criticised her love of tree climbing as being dangerous. My reply was that far more harm comes from children not climbing trees than from climbing them. At my daughter’s 12th birthday party, tree climbing, tackle bullrush, a slingshot shooting gallery and water balloons fights were the entertainment. Mobile phones and all screen devices were banned. Everyone had a great time and there were no injuries. It is time for parents who care to take back the lost ground from the PC brigade. The eagle never stooped so low as to learn from the crow.
It is imperative that we act immediately to reverse these aforementioned trends. Health is the foundation upon which one’s life is built, and I can think of no more important parental duty than that of instilling positive lifestyle habits and values in our children. Think globally, act locally using the following suggestions as a guide.
- Ensure each child has at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
- Limit screen time e.g. TV, computer, cell phones, etc.
- Eat at least 80% unprocessed organic foods. Reduce additive ladened packaged food products to a bare minimum.
- Teach your children to respect themselves, others and the environment.
- Lead by example. Engaging in physical activity is fun and also a great way of bonding.
Yours in health,
Corporate Health Management
P.O. BOX 90943 A.M.S.C AUCKLAND 1142
021 638 383
Contact David for:
Personal Training, Exercise Regimes & Corporate Breathing Seminars