Children, Go To Your Elliptical. Now!

ellipticalThis parental demand may become as important, if not more so, than the standard one insisting that homework be completed.   That’s because our children are suffering from declining physical fitness.   An authoritative global study found that children today run a mile 90 seconds slower than did their counterparts 30 years ago.   The root cause:  they are getting too fat.    The root solution:  every house with children under 15 years of age must have an elliptical and a juicer.

The research findings were based upon data  spanning 46 years and involving more than 25 million children in 28 countries and largely confirm what other smaller studies have similarly indicated.   The problem is largely one of Western countries, but some parts of Asia like South Korea, mainland China and Hong Kong are also seeing this phenomenon.   And they are consistent with a number of other such studies.

Lest you think that we’re overreacting,  ponder these findings:

  • The study is the first to show that kids’ cardiovascular fitness has declined around the globe since about 1975.
  • In the United States, kids’ cardiovascular endurance fell an average 6 percent per decade between 1970 and 2000.
  • Across nations, endurance has declined consistently by about 5 percent every decade.
  • Kids today are roughly 15 percent less fit from a cardiovascular standpoint than their parents were as youngsters.
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • In  2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese
  • A 2014 study shows that 1/3 of all U.S. children between the ages of 9-11 have elevated cholesterol levels which presage increased risks for stroke and cardiovascular disease in their adult years.

These findings reveal some serious future problems for the upcoming generation.   There is an undisputed direct correlation of childhood fitness with adult health. Being physically inactive in childhood can have serious health implications later in life.   Doctors and researchers repeatedly warn us that if a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like diabetes and heart disease later in life.    This is not controverted data.   Other recent studies suggest that feeding of infants can substantially increase obesity tendencies, including early use of formula, introduction of solid food before four months and bottle feeding before sleep.   And a July 2014 study found that lack of exercise is the main culprit behind the skyrocketing obesity rates.   Specifically,  it documented that in the last 20 years, the number of women in the U.S. who reported no physical activity in their free time increased from about 19 percent in 1994 to nearly 52 percent in 2010. In men, the number rose from about 11 percent in 1994 to 44 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, the average BMI (body mass index) increased by 0.37 percent per year in both men and women, rising most dramatically in women ages 18to 39. During the same time period, overall caloric intake did not change.

The connection between reduced exercise and deteriorating healthfulness is no longer controversial.  However, what is controversial is how to address this problem.  Some argue it is caused by poor dietary practices.  Others point to reduced quality of food (processed, high sugar, high fat, addictive convenience foods etc).   While numerous studies highlight the need for greater physical activity.  The good news is the answer is “all of the above”.   Diet, exercise, self-esteem and education all play a role in childhood health.   Because children are imbued with an “invulnerability” instinct that blinds them to future consequences,  the burden of instilling healthy lifestyles in our children falls squarely on the shoulders of parents.

And please consider the recently reported case of a Type-2 diabetes sufferer.   She was 3 years old and morbidly obese.  After 6 months of lifestyle changes monitored by doctors, she was “cured”.   For many people, lifestyle changes really do make a difference.   The doctors replaced her soda and fast food diet with balanced home cooked meals and water.

This goes to our proposed solution.  We are only slightly facetious when we urge the universal adoption of ellipticals and juicers.   But just as Herbert Hoover pledged “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” during his successful 1928 presidential campaign,  it is time that we adopt a pledge of “an elliptical in every home and a juicer in every kitchen” in order to save our future generations from chronic lifestyle-related illnesses that are fully avoidable.    For those who pooh-pooh my proposed pledge, we urge you to visit Joe.   That is, Joe Cross.   He’s a savvy and outspoken Australian who found himself chronically ill and obese at age 41.  He documented his return to health — through exercise and juicing.     His documentary film is free and is essential viewing for kids and parents, alike.

Oh, and parents don’t get off the hook too easily.   Aside from the fact that you lead best by example, there’s the other compelling medical study of  84,170 over a period of eight years.  The findings, released in January 2014,  that found:

  • Independently of sedentary time, men with the lowest levels of physical activity were 52% more likely to develop heart failure, compared with men with the highest levels of physical activity.
  • Regardless of how much they exercised, men who were sedentary for 5 hours or more outside of work were 34% more likely to develop heart failure.
  • Men who spent more than 5 hours a day sitting outside of work and exercised the least had double the risk of heart failure, compared with counterparts who sat for less than 2 hours a day and exercised the most.

The bottom line:  even among men who exercise frequently,  if they sat for long periods of time, they increased their risk of heart failure.  So what are you doing sitting on your duff reading this!   Get up and join your children on that elliptical.  Now!

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