Obesity has become an epidemic in Australia, with it now listed as the most overweight nation in the world. Yet we are the richest nation in the world with education, knowledge and resources being abundant. With the good comes the bad. Many parents and carers these days are very busy and opt for convenience, affordability and ease when it comes to the food their children are given and the level of activities they are involved in.
We are not parents, so this article is not intended to be advice on parenting, but rather a collection of observations and information with regards to children and this growing issue in our country. It is our responsibility as health professionals to try and assist as many people as possible in improving their lifestyle and health. This week we have chosen to focus on the younger generations who rely on the people in their life who basically, to a certain age, are in control of whether or not they are healthy or not.
It is incredibly saddening to witness children who are not of an age to make their own decisions when it comes to diet and exercise, who are classed as morbidly obese. The harsh reality is, that this is a form of child abuse. Obesity is not a standalone issue. It significantly increases the risk for a long list of ailments. This includes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, various cancers and infertility.
It may be so, that when life is busy the ever-growing list of fast food alternatives become the most convenient, and often the most affordable. But in the long run, you are depriving children of their health. In the early stages of growth and development, the body requires certain vitamins and nutrients in order to function properly. When children are exposed to the high fat, sugar and salt fast foods on the regular, they form an addiction in the same way adults do to alcohol or smoking. This feeds the cycle of obesity.
The next issue is exercise. So many kids today have an IPad in hand rather than a ball. When we look back on our younger years things were obviously very different. Our family was fortunate enough to have weekly dinner outings with our cousins. Our parents were always sure to choose restaurants which had a playground, and if not we were given a colouring book. Every afternoon we either had sports training or were running around the yard. The increase in usage of devices amongst kids is a large contributor to the many health issues prevalent in today’s society.
Its not all bad. There are more options available today then there was ten years ago. To name just a few:
Sporty Kids: a fantastic program for kids of all ages to learn basic skills such as balance, improve gross motor skills, socialise with other children and have fun.
Capoeira Brazil: Capoeira is a traditional form of martial arts from Brazil which also involves music, dance, acrobatics and self-defence. It is open for all ages and is one of my favourite childhood memories.
Team sports: whether it be soccer, basketball or football, team sports are critical in our younger years. It helps children to develop team building skills, coordination and agility.
Swimming lessons and Lifesaving: Perfect for summer in Townsville. Exercise is always more fun in the water. Being that we live by the water, it is also critical to ensure kids develop the ability to swim from a young age.
The Strand: FREE with more space then you could ever need. It caters for the Townsville heat with the option of the waterpark or wide paths for learning to ride a bike. There are numerous spots for picnics and BBQ’s which encourage kids to kick a ball or run around.