Not Worth the Weight
30 June 2017
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published some alarming findings in regard to obesity. Adult and childhood obesity is an emerging problem in the western world. The study found that 2 billion children and adults worldwide suffered from health problems that were linked to being overweight and obese. Obesity is growing faster in children than in adults. The article described the situation as “a growing and disturbing global public health crisis”. As a physical education teacher I am very interested in why this is happening and what can be done to prevent it. Clearly, there have been changes in our lifestyle that have contributed to this crisis.
On a recent trip to Queensland I took note of how many fast food outlets there were in each town. Almost all towns, even the smaller ones, contained three major fast food chains that were strategically positioned close to the highway to capture the passing traffic. The frequent consumption of energy dense foods has been identified as a major contributor to being overweight. Often these foods are also more affordable for both adults and young people. Another factor that has also contributed to the problem is the way we spend leisure time. The Internet has become one of the most widely used forms of leisure activities for both adults and young people. A study from the UK indicates that 4 out of 10 children are now addicted to the Internet. It is very easy to sit and open a device and not notice just how much time has passed just being sedentary. Once you have scrolled through Facebook, checked emails and searched for that new something on eBay, hours have passed with little or no activity. When you combine a poor diet with inactivity, you have a recipe for an unhealthy generation.
I’m a great believer that healthy role modelling to children is a key factor in the solution. Here are a few tips to consider: What we allow our kids to eat both at home and away, is definitely a good start. Preparing simple nutritious meals that contain vital nutrients is very important. Your children will remember the type of foods they ate at home when they are older, so make those healthy choices now. Support their interests in a sport. Getting kids involved in a sport outside of school is also a great idea to keep them active. Limit screen time in the home. Children need boundaries in all aspects of their lives and keeping a check on just how much time they have had on a device is crucial.
Keep devices outside of bedrooms, preferably having them in common areas for use. This will enable you to see what your child is doing and how much time is being spent on the device.
Get active with your kids. Exercising with your children can be a time not only for getting fit, but also a time for catching up and creating stronger bonds with them.
Finally, the problem of obesity will only ever become a problem if we allow it. Careful planning now is the key to prevention.
Secondary PDHPE Teacher