In 2007 to 2009, the prevalence of obesity in Canada was 24.1% (source:www.statcan.gc.ca). I tried to use a source that was fairly reliable (we still consider the government to be reliable, right?) because believe it or not their are literally thousands of studies, articles and research regarding rising obesity rates in both children and adults.
Now I have said this many times, I am just a regular gal from a regular family. However, I have been working in the fitness industry for over 10 years, studied Health Science at the University of Western Ontario and have a family, and lots friends and acquaintances on which I can draw examples from.
I should note here, I am on holidays from work this week...so I have a little bit more time to ponder and write.
Anyways, from reading a few articles online and simply LOOKING around when I am out and about, this isn't going to come as a surprise to you that only 13% of Canadian kids get the recommended 60-90 minutes of physical activity each day. Nor will it surprise you that the average Canadian child spends between 3-5 hours PER DAY in front of a computer, TV or video game screen.
For many this is stating things we already know. I am not going to sit here (in front of my computer screen) and preach to you about stats or how terrifying it is to read how inactive we are as nation, because you likely already know that. Chances are if you are reading this blog you are already aware of these stats because you care about health, wellness and living a generally fitter and healthier lifestyle.
Let me tell you about some folks that I haven't mentioned very much is my blog thus far. Mi Familia.
Shhhhh he's sleeeeeeping.
Plus...our 14 year old Lhasa Apso Rudy. Aka, Baby Rudy, White Lightening (he's fast, or he used to be), The Weasel, The Rodent, Rudolph, Rudager.
ï»¿ï»¿He's 14 now, so he sleeps a lot. My brother took this picture of him sleeping recently. This is very easy to do because sleeping is his favourite pass time. Who sleeps with their tongue out?
Anyways, those are the main players in my family. Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister & Dog. Since our senior dog isn't too active these days, I will stick with the humans. Most people don't think about their family core values very often. Or maybe you do, I am not sure. I came home to Ottawa (yes, yes Go Sens Go) for the weekend and I have had the chance to think a little bit about why as a family we are so fit and active and lead generally healthy lifestyles. I came to this conclusion: It was a priority for my parents for us to be active when we were kids, teenagers and adults AND my parents live a generally healthy lifestyle. Are we perfect? No. Super wealthy? No. Above average in any way? No. Well, this is humbling-but the truth is we are pretty normal.
When I reflect back on my childhood we did all the normal things kids did-ate at McDonalds, went for ice cream (I still remember the first time I was allowed to order a small blizzard at Dairy Queen instead of just an ice cream cone) and ordered pizza. BUT (big but) it was usually after playing soccer, or going swimming or going for a family walk (you see where this is going). Listen, we were the first kids to have an original Nintendo and the first to have a VCR with VHS instead of Beta. However, when we were little kids used to come knock on our door and ask if "Mr. Gusmanis" could come out and play because he was one of the only dads that would play catch and other activities outside with us and our friends.
We used to play Knights of Columbus basketball all winter long for $5...can you believe it? Games every single week. All of our friends played. We played soccer in the summer, hockey and skating and gymnastics in the winter, went swimming from May to October in the lake by our house. We played tennis, baseball (T ball when we were much younger)...well you get the idea.
Question: Do you think we did these things by ourselves? Answer: No.
My parents don't have a "official" health and fitness background. However, listen to this research. It turns out my parents were active as kids and also as young adults. They were always outside and played sports when they were younger. They used to go on tennis dates and bikes rides before they had kids. Huh.
They simply decided they would be involved in making an active lifestyle a priority for their kids as well. Ground breaking, huh?
I really try and avoid being too opinionated or political, but this is one subject I am pretty passionate about. The one thing that really, really frustrates me is when people blame McDonalds or fast food in general for serving unhealthy, processed foods. I am sorry parents, but if you give your kids $5 and send them off to school, you bet they are going to McDonalds or eating hot dogs, fries or whatever. You AND your kids are choosing McDonalds. McDonalds doesn't choose you. Fast food doesn't come over to your house, sneak in through an open window and jump into your mouth while you are sleeping at night. Let me be clear. You can eat fast food, it can be yummy or a nice treat every now and then, but parents aren't setting their kids up to make informed choices. That to me, is the real problem.
The biggest excuses in the whole healthy eating /active lifestyle debate surrounds time and money. I don't have enough time to prepare healthy meals or eating healthy is too expensive or we can't afford to put our kids in activities. To me (and my family) it's a simple choice. Everything else is just an excuse to justify bad decisions and choices.
I certainly do not want to sound preachy or judgemental. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I simply wanted to share how very lucky I am to have a family that values fitness and an active lifestyle. My parents have passed that on to my brother and I.
The strange this was, it wasn't just my family. We weren't freaks out in our backyard challenging each other to push up competitions. Many of our friends and my parents friends had generally active families. We noticed if someones mom or dad wasn't there. I don't understand what has changed. Sure Nintendo's are now Xbox's and VHS is now blu-ray or whatever, but the basic principles are still the same, are the not? Parents work, money is still important, yet their is never enough. People are busy, stressed, over worked. None of that has really changed, those things existed when I was growing up. It's such a shame to think that parents are simply dropping the ball.
What is the point of offering physical education in schools if parents don't support an active lifestyle at home? 45 minutes of dodge ball at school won't matter if your child is watching 5 hours of TV every night and eating frozen pizza for dinner.
The greatest gift my parents gave my brother and I is placing value on active living and making healthy choices. Encouraging your children to be active means doing it with them and being a part of it. Not just taking them to sports and then just sitting on the side lines on your Iphone playing angry birds, but taking them outside at night to play catch. Give them a working knowledge about nutrition, prepare your own meals and most importantly lead example. If parents aren't active, kids have to fight harder when they are older to be healthy and active because it doesn't come as naturally.
I am lucky to work in an industry that promotes health and wellness. I meet lots of people. Some very fit and active, some just starting out on their fitness journey. Perhaps you have/had active parents like mine or maybe you didn't. The best part is that it is never too late. Fitness and healthy living is dynamic and changing daily. It's not about what your parents did or didn't do. Although that might make it easier. It's about making better choices and remembering what your parents did or didn't do that you make sure you do for your kids. It's about what you chose to do today for yourself and your kids. And tomorrow. And the next day. That really matters.
I asked my mom to read this before I posted it and she said to me: "You know Tara, it is very hard to find the time be active and cook meals when you have a family. It's not easy at all." I agree. But we have to get better. With only 13% of kids getting enough exercise and 1 in 4 adults being obese, we can't get much worse.