Fat kids sit more, die first

Posted 04.03.07

For the first time in history -- so says a report just issued by the Permanent Committee on Health of the Canadian Parliament -- children are expected to have a shorter life span than their parents. Take a moment to let that sink in.

For the first time -- ever -- our children are likely to die earlier than us.

Why? Because of the soaring rate of childhood obesity.

In 1978, 15 percent of children between two and seventeen were overweight or obese.

But in 2004, 26 percent of that age group have serious weight problems.

The report concludes: "Juvenile obesity has reached epidemic proportions." Today's children are at a high risk of developing Type Two diabetes, heart problems, or high blood pressure.

How did we get here?

Aside from giving them too much of the wrong types of food and drink, today's kids don't move like they once did. Is it parents' fear that their children will be abducted, or worse?

How many parents let their kids hit the streets after school and play outside until dinnertime, as when I was growing up? Schools have also cut back on gym, while installing vending machines filled with junk and soda pop.

Technology is the biggest culprit. While developing amazing cancer treatments and things unheard of ten years ago, technology has brought us computer games that keep kids (and their fathers) engrossed for hours, plus TV-console games and Game Boy/Nintendo systems.

So kids sit. And sit. And then sit some more.

At school I've seen kids lined up at recess, sitting against the building, playing Game Boys. If handheld gaming consoles were banned at school, there would immediately be more movement.

We can't just worry about the schools. We parents have an obligation to take action. Literally.

Recently, I have been working on getting into shape. I've signed up for a martial arts course two nights a week with my two kids. It's a blast. They grumble, but we have fun and get a great workout doing it.

We also get to the pool at least one night a week. I go to the gym three times a week -- my kids are fascinated with the machines. Neither of them can wait until they're old enough to try those machines.

When our kids were babies and had a high fever, we took them to the doctor (could they have meningitis?) This time, the threat is not as immediate. But it's just as real. And it may be that technology will once again solve our problems.

For now, we've got to do it the old-fashioned way. We've got to get outside and get moving. So now that this column is done, and as much as my inner couch potato feels like surfing the Internet or watching "Friends" (I swear I hear the TV calling my name…), I'm turning both it and the computer off and joining my kids outside for a walk around the block. The fresh air smells lovely.

Copyright © 2007 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/04.07