Today was a big day for vegetables and monkey bars.
First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the “Let’s Move” Campaign, her public initiative aimed at conquering childhood obesity within a generation. Per a White House statement also issued today, the program “will provide schools, families and communities simple tools to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.” Certainly this is a sentiment that can be embraced by all, as the health of children is not a partisan concern.
The program stresses balance–nutritional balance, portion balance, balance in activity. Aristotle sure was on to something when he urged the idea of “moderation in all things!” It’s that delicate balance that we seek in all parts of our lives that proves to be the most elusive. As parents, we’re doubly challenged – we must find a balance for ourselves as well as one for our children.
Let’s Move is a comprehensive program that attacks the epidemic of obesity on many fronts, but one focus in particular stood out. “Children need 60 minutes of active and vigorous play every day to grow up to a healthy weight.” (source) Now while this is a completely sound and logical precept, the trebling of the obesity rate in the past three decades would seem to indicate that a great many children are NOT getting their daily hour of vigorous play. Why? What inequity of balance in our culture has contributed to this shift?
What happened to recess? A 2009 Harvard Medical review of a data set from a large survey sponsored by the U. S. Department of Education which focused on third graders found the “appalling state of recess in the United States. Three in ten children have either no recess or only enjoy a minimal break during the day (less than 15 minutes).” (source) For many children, school recess would have been their only opportunity for vigorous outdoor play…if it were provided.
No child left behind – except maybe the husky ones? The authors of the Harvard study surmise that the passage of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act has demanded a sharper focus on academics in order to ensure that children are successful in their standardized testing. Since there is a finite amount of time in the day, something had to give in order to facilitate this focus. Is all work and no play making Jack and Jill dull…and unhealthy?
PlayGround or PlayStation? The meteoric rise in popularity that video games have enjoyed has no doubt played a part as villain in the obesity epidemic. While it may develop swift and nimble fine motor control and supernatural attention to detail, the nearly seven hours per day that the average child (ages 8 – 18) spends watching television or playing video games (source) has wreaked havoc with their physical conditioning. Are parents pulling the plug as often as they should?
While there are unquestionably many more factors that have contributed to the need for an initiative like Let’s Move, those mentioned here are enough to warrant a closer look at the family scheduling.
In our efforts to give our children the best possible start in life – both physically and educationally – it’s always good to remind ourselves of Aristotle’s wisdom. Moderation in all things leads to balance, and when you’ve got good balance…well, it sure makes it harder to fall, now doesn’t it?
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