Friday, April 4, 2008

Children's changing health

When my children were younger (they're 16, 19 and three weeks short of 21 now), there was some concern among some parents about keeping the kids active. Computers weren't all the rage quite yet and movies were only available in VHS (or beta!), so TV was really the major competition for exercise.

I did notice, very early, that there weren't kids playing outside in the same numbers as when I was a child. When we brought our kids to a local park, there may be a few other children playing, but very often, ours were the only ones there. This was the same park I played at as a child and was always full of kids - alone - all day long.

I know that things are different now, particularly with most families having both parents working, but we have to look at what this is doing to our children. For many, the only physical activity they get is in organized sports (if parents can afford it) or gym class at school (if they have it).

I've seen playgrounds at schools where children are banned from playing any of the active games that we played, for fear of injury. One friend even told me that tag was banned at her cousin's school because too many children were getting hurt running and tripping on the concrete. You see, many schools don't have grass either.

Add to that, many of the kids who would have walked to school in "the old days" are now driven by parents, the lack of time on weekends to go outside and play because of all the stuff that needs to be caught up, is there any wonder we're looking at record numbers of obesity, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes in *children*?

It's just going to get worse. The more we try to protect our kids, the worse we are making it for them. Here are a couple of the most recent stories in the news: Inactive kids face 6-fold risk of heart disease by teen years, study finds and Keep on running.

We worry too much about our kids - seriously. I know a few people I knew thought I was nuts to let my kids do some of the stuff they did. My oldest used to go outside with his friend, on their bikes, and go dirt bike riding near the river and across some farm land behind our house (we live in a suburb that borders some farms). They'd be gone for hours. My daughter didn't get into the same sort of thing, but she did dance competitively for quite a while and played organized sports. My youngest son did some of the stuff his older brother did, but he got more involved with wilderness and camping stuff - and he's involved in a weekly floor hockey program.

We have to go back to letting kids be kids. There has got to be a better way to balance our need to protect them with their needs to be free to do things that will help them grow up strong and healthy.

News for Today:
Good trans fats could reduce heart disease, diabetes risk
Glaxo adds warnings of reported psychiatric problems to flu drug
How long is optimal for sex? 3 to 13 minutes, therapists say
No link found in Paxil use, baby heart defects
Now you can visit your doctor online
New test could cut unnecessary treatment for blood disorder in pregnancy

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