Childrens Health and Fitness Pt 1.
The childhood obesity epidemic, who’s to blame - video games, cartoons, lack of government funding for research? What a funny topic and it’s always being discussed in research articles, online forums and newspapers (Clinton Foundation, NineMSN, Daily Mail) and everyone likes pointing fingers at convenient scape goats. What’s the real root cause that’s making children obese and unwell? Is it cartoons and video games? I watched and played heaps as a child (and still do today) and now I’m running a successful health and fitness business, trained Olympic athletes and spoken at national health and fitness forums. How about the government or teachers? But what responsibility do they have over your child? Over the next few articles I want to go over some key points about children’s health and fitness and hopefully open your eyes to a few easy changes you can implement to improve the health of children and stop this ridiculous epidemic.
CHILDREN SHOULD BE THE LEADING HEALTH AND FITNESS PROFESSIONALS
Some good friends of mine have a young child who is now about 18 months old. I’ve caught up with them often over this past year and for me it has been amazing to watch this little boy grow. I’ve seen him go through the crawling phase all the way to walking, squatting, lifting and climbing. It’s great to watch how with each new shuddering movement he is opening up more neural pathways to make way for smooth, strong, efficient MOVEMENT. His strength and muscle tone has increased so much in such a short period of time that I think he should be a leading figure in the fitness world! This got me thinking that if we all start out life being so naturally strong, fit and functional why is there a ‘childhood obesity epidemic’ and why are most of the adult population is in such bad shape? We struggle so much to find the answers to lasting health yet we are all obviously born with the capacity for it. This boy’s movements are the best I’ve seen and it’s amazing to see that he’s achieved such great results without protein powders, gym machines, gimmicks or even having to come to Active Red for a training session J I hope his health and strength lasts and that he doesn’t’ fall into the unhealthy trap that so much of the population seems to be stuck in today.
I know for sure that if we could all move as well and as often as my friend’s little boy the adult population wouldn’t be struggling with losing weight and suffering from conditions such as back pain as much as it is. But with the world in as bad a shape as it’s in, will this little boy be able to maintain his growing strength and fitness? Thankfully I’m sure he will under the guidance of his mindful and respectful parents. This leads me to believe that a child’s health and fitness is predominately determined by the guidance of their parent, guardian or adults around them – their role models. But can the adult population guide the coming generations when, on the whole, we struggle so much with health and fitness ourselves? How can we be good role models for children who are healthier and can move and function better than us?
Most adults in the western world have lost touch with how to move well, most of us can’t squat, bend or pull our own body weight up without hurting ourselves or at all. We sit down most of the time, eat quick, easy ‘foods’ with little or no nutritional value and complain about sore joints and achy backs – do we really want to showcase this as a typical adult life to children? Are these the lessons we want to be teaching them? Children, it seems, have such a great, instinctual approach to health and fitness that they should be our role models.
Despite showing such strong early development in life children are quickly becoming sick and obese, and a lot of research out there (Video Games) suggests that this is because of TV, computers and video games. Like they show up and immediately influence a child’s life, spelling certain doom for them - to me this just seems like a convenient scape goat. The biggest influence on a child’s health and wellbeing are adults. But let’s be honest here, I think it’s safe to say that a large percentage of adults in the world don’t know how to really take care of themselves - that is, not get sick, keep in shape or just be healthy – let alone anyone else. True? If this wasn’t the case, there wouldn’t be such huge increases in conditions such as joint pain or obesity over the years. As adults, we become so out of touch with our bodies and on a constant search for quick, easy fixes and we’re passing this lack of knowledge on to the young people in the world, creating more problems for future generations. We have to start setting a good example now by shifting the blame from video games to ourselves, coming back to our roots and retraining our bodies to function the way nature intended – and set a good example.
Optimal health, functionality and muscle tone isn’t an ideal that is exclusive to childhood. Nature has built us to be functional and healthy. But can you function the way nature intended? Try this quick test:
The human body is NOT designed to be in bad shape or over weight. It IS designed to move, function and be healthy and we can see that this naturally occurs when we start life – look at how smoothly a child squats for example. How many of you can squat as well as your child?
Watch how a child squats, their hips are down past their knees and the upper body is kept tall, when they come up it is smooth and controlled – they don’t hurt their knees either. Can you squat and function as smoothly as this? If not then you’d better improve your flexibility and get practicing.
The answers to ‘coming back to our roots’ lie in our attitude towards health and fitness and changing it from being reactive to proactive, from keeping the approach simple and not over complicating it with quick fixes and gimmicks.
- Get up and move! I and I don’t mean just go for a walk or just smash yourself in the gym fo the sake of it. I mean actually move - stretch, squat, lift, sprint, jump, swim, climb and challenge your stability. The human body is built for a lot of movements – experiment! Take a look at our WORKOUT VIDEOS and TRAINING ARTICLES or get some ideas from your child :)
- Move often. The human body is designed to move everyday – not once a week for an hour at the gym. Train yourself often with moderate workouts, this can be simple stretching and doing some basic movements for 20-40 minutes each day. No need to smash yourself like Rocky. Try this BASIC WORKOUT.
- Fine tune your movements. Because we sit still a lot in the western world and aren’t encouraged to maintain our full ranges of motion from childhood we grow into stiff and immobile adults. Chances are you won’t be able to move well right away so you’ll need some fine tuning. Try these SIMPLE EXERCISES to help you out.
- Eat real foods and learn to cook. The fuel we put into our bodies plays big part in how well we can move and function – eat poor quality foods (sugar, alcohol and packaged foods) and your body will function poorly. Eat fresh, real foods – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and leaves. Follow some of our basic COOKING VIDEOS for some ideas.
Being honest again, we live in a society that is fixated on looks and six-packs – for the most part. People in the western world, generally, don’t see any benefit to exercise unless they are looking fat or feeling sore and even then a lot of people still don’t see a benefit. Generally, people don’t value strength, movement and healthy eating unless it means they’ll look good. They’ll only take action when it’s often too late, that is, when they have already gotten to the point of being sore, fat or unwell. This reactive mindset to health and strength is completely wrong and unfortunately, it’s with this mentality that children are broken out of their instinctual approach to health and fitness and have to suffer. We need to be proactive in first understanding the true value of strength, movement and healthy eating for what it is - a lifelong tool to keep us healthy and free of sickness and pain - and not what it is commonly mistaken for - a tool for merely looking good at the beach.
Like I said above, children should be the leading health and fitness professionals in the world, as they instinctually follow a proactive approach to health and fitness that obviously gets results and doesn’t rely on quick fixes or gimmicks. A lot of current fitness professionals over complicate health with crazy fads and gimmicks when all we really need to be doing is letting our bodies live and move the way nature intended, like children already do. When we’re born our bodies are naturally equipped with all the tools necessary to survive in the world. Of course the body’s systems and strength have to develop, but we will grow into a functional human that can instinctually lift, squat, run, jump and climb. During those early years, our strength and muscle tone increases quickly and naturally through nothing more than basic, natural, consistent movements.
I think all the issues with increased childhood obesity and sickness comes down to a lack of responsibility from adults – we’re not good role models for young people because we don’t like or see a value in taking care of ourselves. In taking poor care of ourselves we think we have the right answers to pass onto kids. For example; because we may hurt our backs when we lift things we discourage kids from lifting, we think we are doing them a favour by cutting a valuable movement pattern from their repertoire – we think we’re protecting them when in fact we’re passing on false knowledge from our own poor lifestyle. A body that is easily sick or injured is dysfunctional on some level – adults need to understand and take responsibility for this in order to teach children correctly.
I always believe that every moment in life gives us a chance to become more than what we are, if you’re a parent or are responsible for young children, consider the impressions your giving them with your lifestyle choices – are you strong, healthy, energised and mobile or is there room for improvements? If you do feel there’s room for improvement then challenge yourself to make some positive changes and be a positive role model for them. Also be proud of your child’s ability to move well through a wide range of motions, encourage them to challenge themselves and maintain their mobility but also be there to protect them.
It takes no time at all to start improving your health and strength and in turn become a strong role model for the children around you - the best thing is that nature has already equipped you with all the tools to do so. Take an honest look at your current health and fitness; can you squat, lift and move through a wide range of motions (without pain)? Do you do it often? Do you treat your body well? Are you a positive role model?