I would say that I am about 90% sure that almost all of you who take a gander at this blog have heard the saying “Monkey see, monkey do.” Am I right? Well, keep that in mind as you continue reading, and we will come back to it.
First off, I want to fill you in on some facts that quite possibly will surprise you and hopefully will concern you:
- Approximately 21-24% of American children and adolescents are overweight, and another 16-18% are obese. That means that about every one in three children or adolescents that you come across is at greater or severe risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or having a stroke (and those are just to name a few).
- In 2007, the state of Indiana ALONE had a rate of 29.9% obese and overweight children and adolescents.
- Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2–18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
- In a nationally representative survey for the CDC, 77% of children aged 9–13 years reported participating in free-time physical activity during the previous 7 days. In 2011, only 29% percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on each of the 7 days before the survey.
It may be different for everybody, but my personal interpretation of these statistics is that this situation is unacceptable. If we continue down this path, we will eventually see that our youth were set up to lead shortened, low quality lives because of their health…and we sat back to watch it happen. I want to encourage readers to be humble, but take action if you see that your child or teen is inactive or practicing poor nutrition habits. No more justification, no more excuses. Whether it runs in your family or not, it’s a choice we make. Maybe they’ll take it the wrong way, maybe they won’t…but down the road, you will be thankful you took action and so will they.
You may want to sit down and prepare for my explanation of “monkey see, monkey do.” Take a minute to ask yourself and reflect on this question– “What are my own exercise and eating habits communicating to those I interact with, especially my children?” Chances are, if you don’t think your health or your children’s health is important, neither will they. If you spend your time sitting on the couch watching TV, they will more than likely occupy their time that way (and I don’t want to hear that watching TV together is good for “bonding” or “family time”). If you purchase and snack on unhealthy munchies throughout your rotation of excessive servings of sugary, fatty, or processed foods, they surely will think that is the what they are supposed to do, too. Parents and family members are the greatest influences in the lives of kids, and that includes their decision making and habit developing in regards to their health. That makes it your responsibility to leave footsteps that are beneficial for them to follow in (oh, and you might as well increase your pace to make them sweat a little while you’re at it!).
And to the dear teens or kids who may come across this blog as well, you aren’t out of the woods yet either. We all love you, but…get off your tush! Grab a ball or a bike or anything and go play! You can even dance in front of your mirror to “Call Me Maybe”, if you want. Wii Fit and interactive, physically active video games of the sort will suffice, and I am all about promoting education outside of school and within the home, but playing math computer games (for example) will only get you so far. If you want to do math, you should start adding up how many calories you don’t burn while sitting at the computer (pun intended). In addition to that, many studies have shown that physical activity promotes brain function and learning development. In other words…prioritize both!
Decide right now what kind of monkey you want to be…and then get to work!