Childrens Health and Fitness Pt 2.
In the previous article I went over how adults need to take more responsibility for their children’s health and be a positive and healthy role model for them by utilizing a proactive approach to health and fitness - and not place blame on things like TVs and video games. In this follow up article I want to go a little deeper into how we can keep our future generations healthy by working with the tools given to them by millions of years of evolution and not work against it. We’re not smarter than the evolutionary process and we are constantly discovering that humans (BBC) have been moving for millions of years why change what works?
CAN WE WORK AGAINST A MILLION YEARS OF EVOLUTION?
So, when we’re born we are naturally equipped with all the necessary tools to be strong, fit and functional or look great in a swim suit if that’s important to you. So if children are generally born healthy, how is it lost between child and adulthood? Movement in the early years of life is self-taught. It is basically a natural, instinctive survival mechanism put there to help us survive in the world – evolution has taught the human body that if it can’t move, it can’t get food or escape danger, it can’t live! However over the years we’ve changed our environment from one of being out in the wild - with dangerous creatures, harsh climates and scarce food, where movement is essential - to one of being in built up cities - with transport, chairs and easily accessible food, where movement isn’t really required at all. The modern lifestyle doesn’t really require that we move much or be overly cautious or fearful of our environment. Now I’m not saying we need to evacuate the cities and give up our luxuries – I still haven’t finished Batman Arkham City on PS3! – but understand that we are still built to move often and face physical challenges. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be getting sick, sore or fat living the way we do, evolution hasn’t caught up to this type of lifestyle – I hope it doesn’t!
Because movement isn’t much of a necessity in the modern world, adults decide to work against millions of years of human evolution by putting young humans who are just starting to understand their body, into chairs for 6 hours a day by sending them off to school. Schooling and education is important but consider that sitting in chairs or sitting still is a poor position for any human body to be in for prolonged periods of time (MOVEMENT). So imagine what it’s doing to a child who’s still growing and learning how to move.
Ok so schools do offer physical education programs and have recently implemented other compulsory physical activity (ABC) to counter the growing childhood obesity rates – the article is a good example of a reactive approach to health and fitness by the way. But in my time working at various schools all I see is sports programs that have kids mindlessly run around for ‘fitness’ rather than teach and enhance the movement patterns that their bodies were trying to develop in the first place, which incidentally, will give them long lasting fitness as well as strengthen their joints and kill the ‘childhood obesity epidemic’. My main concern with a lot of school training programs – in Australia at least - is that there is a strong push to get children into sports and dynamic activity right away. While this type of training is ‘fun’ for kids and does keep them active, from a functional movement standpoint it’s advancing them too quickly. Consider that their bodies and stability are still developing then all of a sudden they are performing excessive amounts of dynamic activity (running and jumping) that will cause unnecessary wear and tear on a body that really isn’t ready for it. It’s asking for trouble and will only lead to the child developing faulty loading patterns while they try to keep up with friends – it doesn’t teach them any skill or understanding of their body or enhance their natural movement patterns, which would’ve happened had they been allowed to challenge themselves naturally.
Think of this: If I trained an adult in the gym who hadn’t trained in a few years – had no stability or control – and had them do high amounts of dynamic activity for fun, they would injure themselves and probably take legal action against me. My responsibility to a client like this when training for the first time would be to ensure they can move efficiently, have an understanding of how to control their body and then gradually increase the workload. Of course I would find ways to make this interesting and fun but the point is why should we treat children differently when it comes to exercise?
Of course team sports and other fun activities are essential for keeping the learning process fun and encouraging a child to stick with exercise but their programs should be more focused around promoting movement and stability, teaching them to understand their bodies and coordinate themselves – not just chase a ball.
Probably the worst way we work against the evolutionary process is with food and nutrition. We feed kids utterly crap food (McDonalds, KFC, stuff off any ‘child’s menu’ from most restaurants, and a whole bunch of random sweets and lollies – junk food) with an idiotic mentality that “they’re young and they’ll burn it off” or “it’s a treat”.
I will keep this brief. I’m no nutritionist but I can tell you that without a doubt a human body responds best to real food – meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and leaves – not anything artificial (junk or fast food). Think of our history – did a caveman crack open a red bull to recover? Did a caveman sit still all day while snacking on chocolates? We all know this but we also need to apply it.
Poor quality foods often take more energy out of the body than they deliver. When you feed your body foods lacking in nutrients your body has to expend energy to quickly process and eliminate it from your system –putting your body into negative energy. This also has an effect on the health of organs and even the function of core muscles. When you feed a child poor quality foods, although it may taste nice and they like the sweetness, all it does is put them into negative energy and shut down growing systems in their body. Couple this with excessive, dynamic activity and you’re asking for trouble.
Eat real foods! Feed your kids real foods!
We think we’ve got it right but we are definitely not smarter than a million years of evolution. Products playing in the ad break of Biggest Loser won’t ever enhance the body or help a child grow the same way as simply letting it move and feeding it real foods (4 POINTS OF HEALTH). I’ve helped people overcome serious injuries and work with disabilities (which medical professionals have said they’ll never be able to come back from) by simply teaching them to squat, lift and eat real foods again – bringing them back the movement patterns and lifestyle choices that evolution taught them as a child.
Do children need to pump weights like a body builder?
The answers to children’s health, and our own, are found in our history, but for some reason we’re trying to work against it. We seem to get so caught up with all the health and fitness products, information and gimmicks out there that we forget where we came from and that we’ve changed the world considerably from what the evolutionary process has built us for. But the truth is that although the modern world has changed, we have not – we’re still made for movement and health.
At the end of the day staying in shape for children and adults is nothing special – move your body often and well through a wide range of varied motions, challenge it every now and then (don’t smash it all the time) and feed it real foods. Take responsibility for yourself and your choices, overcome your weaknesses and pass on this positive message to young people out there! Take time to retrain your body to move properly (squat, lift, sprint, jump etc) and make healthier food choices. Lead by example and be a positive influence on young people – the way nature intended.
Part 3: Cultural Understandings