I live in California, supposedly one of the states with the healthiest of lifestyles. Well, at least it used to be. All of us are out jogging on the beach, playing frisbee or volleyball, skiing and snowboarding, running marathons, surfing, eating fruits and vegetables only, and just living the California Dream…or so the storybooks say. But the reality of it is, we are no better than anyone else, especially when it comes to our kids and exercise.
In December, 2010, a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index was produced and guess what, California wasn’t even in the top 10 of “Well-being” states. We came in at number 18. What happened to all of the sun and healthy glory of yesteryear? We are probably driving our cars way too much and sitting around playing video games or something.
58.1% of Californians eat produce frequently and 54.7% exercise frequently. That’s not too bad when you think about it. And 22.6% are considered “obese.” What concerns me here is the potential downward trend and that our youth might be getting lazy and fat in the process. I definitely blame video games and TV as primary culprits for this onslaught of passive lifestyles.
To put the icing on the cake, to use a fattening phrase, yesterday I read an article about how fewer than ⅓ of California students meet the fitness goals outlined by the State. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a news release, “when only 31 percent of children are physically fit, that’s a public health challenge we can’t wait to address.” YES! PLEASE! Address it! But how are you going to do it? Various school programs are being cut all of the time and there is limited funding for after-school activities. Heck, even colleges and universities are cutting the funding of athletic programs. What kind of a statement is that?
We are raising lazy and unhealthy kids now and there is not much support to make a change to this.
In California, 5, 6 and 7th graders are tested on a variety of items: aerobic capacity, flexibility, trunk strength, body fat composition, abdominal strength and upper body strength. 2011 shows decreases in “healthiness” pretty much across the board in the results compared to 2010. The tests aren’t that rigorous either: for a 5′ 6″, 150-pound 9th grade boy, they have to run 1 mile in 9 minutes, do a minimum of 16 push-ups and do 24 sit-ups.
Honestly, I don’t think that the schools can do that much more, it’s really up to the parents as well to promote a healthy lifestyle and lead by example. I’m not really a good role model for this as I don’t exercise other than walking. My wife, however, runs on the treadmill every day and eats only the healthiest of foods.
But my family is a bit of an exception, or so I would like to think. My oldest daughter is exempted from PE at school because she is an avid ballet dancer at the SF Ballet School. She is probably in as good a shape as a professional athlete. My middle daughter does competitive gymnastics, training 9-10 hours a week, and has had push-up, pull-up and sit-up competitions regularly with the boys at her school (and usually wins). My youngest does ballet and tap, and has an incredibly fast metabolism (she can down a full hamburger just as easily as I can) but chooses healthy food over sweets.
I guess that I’m just lucky. But, we also make it a conscious choice as parents to prepare meals from scratch all of the time and involve our children in active activities. It’s not easy and takes a lot of time commitment (and money) to make it happen.
So what happens to those kids who are not in the “best schools”, don’t have programs available for exercise, have parents who work all of the time, or are “disadvantaged” in some way compared to others? They are the ones that schools and the state and local governments should be focused on. I’m not encouraged by the downward trend in California, and I would guess that this is commonplace around the United States. But, we need to change this somehow and I’m hoping that change will come and come soon!
How do you keep your kids active and healthy? Do you promote a healthy lifestyle? Is it the role of the parent, the school, the government or all of the above? Share with me your secret to a healthy and active lifestyle for your kids.