A little over 12 years ago, the meaning of being healthy and fit took on a completely different meaning for me. And this new meaning may be one of the best ways you can ensure the health of what matters to you most – your family.
In my teens, my affinity for fitness began. Being fit was about being fast and strong, and a feeble attempt to get bigger (I tipped the scales in the football locker room at an imposing 135 pounds by my senior year!) In college, it was more of the same, with the added element of trying to impress the girls. As my career in fitness and PT evolved, in became more about how my knowledge of fitness could help others.
But then, there was a DRASTIC, monumental shift in my perspective about health and fitness. Within a few months, I had turned 30, purchased a house, found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, and started a business. The real world had just came crashing at my doorstep, welcoming me to a whole new world of responsibility that I could not fathom only a few months prior.
This is when everything changed about health and fitness for me. I realized being healthy and fit was about being able to match the endless energy of a growing child. It was about building a reserve that would enable be to handle the tests of endurance that come with running a business and raising a family . It was about setting an example for my children. It was about being here when my children become adults, and for their children.
And even more than ever, being healthy and fit for me now is about paying it forward, sharing what I’ve learned with as many people as I know. It’s about constantly learning, and combining science and research with lessons from real world experience to come up with real solutions to live healthier, balanced lives.
Accordingly, the best thing I can share with you or anyone I consult with are proven ways to help you and your family live healthier, more fulfilling lives. Specifically, your children.
Childhood obesity affects 17% of the population, and this number continues to grow. We are all tempted to distance ourselves from this issue, especially if your child is not currently obese. But let’s not fool ourselves. No child wakes up and suddenly becomes obese. Behaviors and patterns slowly develop, and what may seem like mild health concerns eventually grow to severe medical issues down the road, even if the measurements do not currently warrant the dreaded obesity label. Regardless, the childhood obesity epidemic has taught us several lessons about raising healthy children..
Lesson learned from the childhood obesity epidemic
1. The realization of the long term health consequences of unhealthy children. A 2007 study in the New England Journal of Medicine predicted that their will be a 19% increase in cardiovascular deaths by the time today’s teens reach 35-50. And these risks are associated with children’s weight. In fact, a 13 year old who is 14 pounds overweight will increase their risk of suffering a cardiovascular event by the time they are 60 by 33%.
2. The short term consequences are just as severe. From diabetes to cognitive function to self-esteem, proper exercise and diet have a profound effect on your child’s health today. An interesting study from Europe showed that children with lower cardiovascular function, regardless of their weight, had higher levels of C-reactive protein. If you’ve read prior newsletters, you may remember that C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation, and has been regarded as a strong risk factor of cardiovascular disease, as well as other diseases. Not surprisingly, foods high in sugar, flour, and vegetable oils tend to increase c-reactive protein.
3. Parents may not be the best judges of their child’s health. Again, it is easy as parents to dismiss concerns about our children’s health when the childhood obesity concerns are raised. Obesity is such an extreme condition, after all. However, when it comes to parents perceptions about our children’s health, especially toddlers and preschoolers, us parents may not be the best judges of their health. A recent study in the Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior reveals that parents who deemed their young children as “very healthy” only meet 2 of the minimum recommendations for activity and nutrition when their questionnaires were examined.
So what do we do to ensure our kids are healthy, and avoid the perils that lurk in their future? Just as important, what do we do to make sure their lives are better, more healthy tomorrow?
1. Don’t expect your health insurance to fix the problem. Recent research shows that 4% of children are severely obese. This qualifies them for consideration for bariatric surgery (according to some medical opinions), and this procedure is often covered by insurance. Interesting how the system works – insurance doesn’t kick in until you are more sick! That would be like with holding cancer treatment for a child until they reached stage 4 malignancy. That is really sick.
2. Put them all on diets? In fact this can back fire, as proven in a recent University of Minnesota study, which showed those whose parent encouraged a diet remained overweight compared to those who did not.
3. Lobby for better foods in school, and more PE? That will certainly help, but our kids will be old and gray before that takes place, or at least not kids anymore.
In the meantime, unless the Easter bunny agrees to stop delivering yummy peeps, all the neighbors replace sweet tarts and peanut butter cups with lara bars and broccoli flourets for Halloween treats, and countless entrenched aspects of our culture and food experience a monumental shift, kids will always be seduced by unhealthy food options.And baring the collapse of the motorize scooter industry, social networking, and video games, there will always be tempting sedentary alternatives to playing tag football in the back yard.
What strategy really works?
There is one proven strategy that works. It is not a special program or bill, and certainly not a drug or procedure. It is probably the hardest thing to do, but it provides the ultimate payoff. It is proven to be the strongest factor in influencing children’s attitudes and behaviors about health, nutrition, and exercise. It is something that I see with my own two eyes, and is supported by study after study. I truly believe it is the key solution to improving the quality of our children’s lives, A solution that will reduce the crippling costs of health care, and ensure that this generation does not become the first to not outlive their parents generation.
It is a solution that requires a monumental shift in your perspective about health and fitness.
Any guesses what it is? Please post your thoughts below by clicking on the comments section. I would love to hear your perspectives. I’ll share my thoughts on the most effective strategy to ensure healthy children later this week.