Kinesiology – Emotional Stress Relief – Physical Fitness (300 Level Course)
Good health enables individuals to lead productive and fulfilling lives (Report on the health of Canadians, 1) but in today’s society, technological advancements, lack of motivation and lack of nutritional education are causing youth to become more unfit than ever before. Webster’s dictionary defines fitness as being of good health and good physical condition.
This definition rarely applies to youth these days. A recent study shows that 33 percent of Canadian boys were overweight in 1996, and the number of overweight girls was 27 percent, which is also a very high percentage. (Demont, 22) Obesity is also becoming a serious problem for children. Obesity is generally defined as being at least twenty percent above the ideal body weight. Since 1981, the percentage of obese children has multiplied by five. Ten percent of boys and nine percent of girls are now considered obese. (Demont, 22) On average, the children and youth of today are unfit and unhealthy, leading to the unfit adults of tomorrow.
It starts when you are a child. If you don’t get the motivation that you need to keep fit, then it is likely that the same attitude towards exercise will remain with you throughout adulthood. For an adult, it is hard to get out of long-term lifestyle patterns and into a regular exercise routine.
Adults tend to have many excuses for not getting enough exercise. A few of which may be that they are too tired and stressed after a long day at work, or that they don’t have enough time because they have to cook dinner, do housework, or take care of the kids. But here is where the motivation steps in. If you’ve got to take care of the kids then why not incorporate some physical activity? Take them for a walk or go to the play ground with them. Inline skating or biking is also a great way to stay fit with your children. Parents should know what motivates their children and use that information in any way to keep their children healthy and fit. Kids need motivation to stay active just as much as adults do. It has been shown that children are more likely to want to be physically active if their parents are active. Children’s physical activity patterns tend to revolve around what they learn at home. (Pivarnik, James M., N/D) For example, if a parent is always at work and the child watches television and eats junk food all day, then that child is likely to develop a negative or lazy attitude, not to mention a very bad habit with regards to exercise, that will likely remain with them through adulthood.
Getting a child involved in organized sports is the perfect way to keep them active and healthy. But the problem with this, sometimes, is that the family budget doesn’t allow it. Social class plays a major role in weather or not a child stays active. Children with a lower class status rarely get the same opportunities as the children of higher-class families. Availability of facilities, equipment and coaching for most programs costs a lot. (Shephard, 235) Even after school programs and community recreation centers ask for a sufficient amount of money. A lot of families simply cannot afford to put their child in such programs. Especially lower class families with multiple children.
Another problem when trying to get a child into an organized sport may be their friends. Generally, children don’t want to get into a program where he or she will not know anyone. If there is no one familiar in the group, then the child is likely to take a negative attitude towards the program and in turn will not enjoy it, and possibly even quit. For a parent to motivate a young child to get into such a program, they should first consider who the child will know and weather or not they will enjoy the program. As a child grows to like a sport, gender may also cause some problems. Take a young boy in figure skating, dancing or even gymnastics for example. Society seems to shape children at an early age to think that these are “girls” sports. The same may go for a young girl in a hockey or baseball program. Unfortunately, this affects a lot of children, and even if they enjoy the sport, they may feel pressured by friends or acquaintances to quit.
It gets harder to motivate someone later on in the adolescent stage because so many factors come into play. Teenagers “don’t have time” for physical activity. Social time and even study time take away from going for a walk or a bike ride. This, however, is not necessarily true for all teenagers. The ones who were motivated to start playing sports and enjoyed their time outside at an early age will always find time for physical activity. The negative attitude starts and an early age and unfortunately, it is especially hard to break a teenager from bad habits and patterns such as this.
Drugs and alcohol also start to influence physical activity during the teenage years. If a teen starts to smoke, drink or do drugs, then physical fitness becomes one of the least important matters to them. They won’t have enough energy, and even breathing may be a serious problem for smokers when it comes to physical activities.
This is when schools and teachers should get involved. Hopefully, by this age, children have been positively influenced by their schools, but teachers need to take an extra step when they see that a child has gotten involved with drugs and/or alcohol.
Students spend the majority of their time in school, so they need positive reinforcement and role models within the system. After school programs, nutrition and health classes, and programs that educate the students about how important it is to stay fit and healthy are great ways to incorporate fitness into the school system. Most, if not all schools from junior high onward, have school sports teams. But what about the children who are not particularly good at sports? There are very few schools that have programs for students to get exercise without having to try out for a team. Physical education classes seem to be satisfactory for those students, but in a study about physical education classes in Michigan, the average P.E class keeps children active for less than twenty minutes. (Pivarnik, James M., N/D) Another study also showed that in 1998, only 10 percent of Canadian schools offered gym classes daily, and a tenth of school kids had no gym class at all. (Demont, 24) Also, during physical education classes, the trend seems to be that the more “athletic” students play the sports and the games, while the students who don’t particularly enjoy sports, barely participate. There should be programs available for these students. For example, an after school walking club would be particularly beneficial to students who do not enjoy sports or even for the students with health problems such as asthma. Staying fit doesn’t mean that you have to be on a team and children, especially, need to know this.
A good way for a teacher to motivate their students would be to get involved in the activity. Being a good role model could include taking a group of students on an afternoon hike or casual bike ride once a week.
In order to incorporate these ideas into the school system, the teachers also need to be educated about health and fitness. This, not only would help the students understand the importance, but the teacher as well would have a better understanding.
The last major source of motivation comes from the community. Organized sports, recreation centers and even summer programs all help children get the physical activity that they need to stay fit. Most of the programs for younger children are very good at incorporating a lot for fun games for them to play. This is the key in keeping small children active. These activities have to be fun to keep their interest. There are great new ideas being brought up in recreation centers to keep children interested in the programs. Once a child is introduced to a sport or a program that they really enjoy, then generally, that attitude towards sports and fitness will stay with them.
Activities such as swimming are almost always open to the public, so there really is no excuse as to why someone doesn’t go regularly for a swim or even a walk or run. There is rarely anything stopping someone from going. The facilities are provided, so all that is needed is the motivation.
Nutrition can also play an immense role in defining fit and unfit. Poor food choices, along with lack of exercise can yield fat, unfit children (Daugherty, 2002), and even adults. Poor eating habits can lead to obesity, which can cause harmful diseases that may last an entire lifetime. There are many vast reasons that can be blamed for the increase in weight gain, and there are also plenty of techniques that can be used to increase physical activity, therefore decreasing weight gain.
There are some factors that may cause people to become overweight, or obese such as genetic factors, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. They can all contribute to overweight children. Obesity is rarely caused by medical conditions even though many people may think this. Even if a child is brought up in a family with a weight problem does not necessarily mean that they themselves will become overweight. They very well could be at a high risk, but that could be linked to the family’s eating habits and exercise habits. Unfortunately obesity has increased in children more than 50% in the past 30 years (Daugherty, 2002), and one in every five children in the U.S. are overweight (Grayson, 2002). The reason for this drastic increase is lack of physical activity and poor food choices. There are many health risks that can be caused by obesity. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, early heart disease, bone problems, and skin conditions are only some of the more serious issues that can arise. When kids realize that they are overweight, often times it’s too late and they can become discouraged and never try to improve their physical condition.
To be more specific of the factors that can cause overweight and obese children, can be linked to society. Our environment has turned to high-fat, high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-salt snack foods (Daugherty, 2002). Children would much rather have a bag of chips at recess instead a little baggie of raw vegetables. In the twenty years between 1975 and 1995, visits to fast food restaurants in Canada sky rocketed by two hundred percent! (Demont, 23) Super Sized value meals at fast food restaurants are encouraged for just an extra fifty cents. For that extra fifty cents, you are not just getting more food, but hundreds of extra-unneeded calories. So, in a way, when people blame fast food restaurants for themselves and other being overweight, they may have a case.
Another major factor for the weight problem for today’s kids is vending machines and soda pop machines (Boyles, 2001). Can you ever go to a school without seeing a vending and a pop machine in numerous spots all over the school? Not usually. They are in every hallway. Children consume most of their calories from pop and other sugary drinks like fruit juices. The average kid consumes thousands of calories a week in pop and fruit juices alone (Boyles, 2001). Just imagine if a child drank one can of pop every day, in the run of a week that’s approximately 2500 calories, on liquids alone.
If children wish to have their pop, chips, and chocolate bars, they must do some sort of physical activity to burn most of the calories. Schools need to reinstate effective physical education programs and try to establish an active lifestyle that will continue throughout their youth and adult years. Society can also make people become more aware of health problems through campaigns and presentations to schools, work places and even hospitals. A child’s total diet and activity level can determine a child’s weight (Grayson, 2002). The eating habits children pick up at a young age will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle as adults, and even though children have fewer weight-related health and medical problems than adults, overweight children have a high risk of becoming overweight adolescents and adults (Grayson, 2002). Typically, overweight youth become overweight adults (Westcott, n.d.).
Even though adults have a better knowledge of a healthy lifestyle, there are still one in four adults that are obese, and three in every four adults that are overweight (Westcott, n.d.). That leaves only half the population defined to be “fit.” Parents can have a major role in their children’s eating habits and physical activity level. Let them be involved in picking out healthy choices at the grocery store and let them help prepare meals. Parents can also discourage their children from snacking all of the time, especially in front of the television. While kids watch television, they don’t realize if they are full or not, but just continuing to eat. Plan children’s snacks and prepare a healthy lunch for school hours.
Television, video games, movies and computers do not help children stay active. If anything, the more time kids spend on these activities, the less time they have for physical activity. The majority of kids choose these indoor activities to playing tennis, or soccer, or even playing tag outside with their friends. On average for children, 23 hours a week is spent in front of the television, and ten hours a week is spent playing video games (Boyles, 2001). There is a constant increase of intake of calories, and unfortunately a decrease in the burning of calories, thanks to television and computers.
Technology has made people lazy. How many kids still go out to play with their friends after they have eaten? Most stay home and watch television as much as they eat. And they don’t even have to get up to change the channel because we have remotes that do it for us. And on television, kids see sports figures and movie stars advertising fast food and junk foods. But not only watching television is a big influence on increasing obesity in children. Also computers, video games, and the Internet are related factors of the serious and growing issue of child and adolescent obesity.
The average Canadian child watches excessive amounts of television (Bernard-Bonnin et al. 1991). The AC Nielson Company’s report on television found out that the average Canadian child watches 23 hours of television each week, and with some children watching up to five hours daily and the average adolescent watches over 20 hours of television per week. That is a lot of time spent sitting and glaring at a television and if you think about these numbers, by the time a child reaches high school, it will have spent more time watching television than in the classroom.
Television is the biggest technological negative factor of child obesity as it contributes to the increased incidence of childhood and adolescent obesity (Dietz WH Jr., 1985). Watching television is an effective way of advertising products to children of various ages (Stasburger VC, 1986). So while our children watch television, they will see more than 20,000 commercials each year (Children, adolescents, and advertising, 1995). But what does a car or a financial branch commercial have to do with child obesity? The answer to that is easy. More than 60% of commercials promote sugared cereals, candy, fatty foods, and toys (Children, adolescents, and advertising, 1995) where the fat content of these advertised products exceed the current average Canadian diet and nutritional recommendations. Not only are these items high in fat, sugar, and salt, but also low in overall nutritional value and fiber (Hill & Radimer, 1997). Commercials for healthy foods make up only 4% of the food advertisements shown during children’s viewing time. Therefore television viewing makes a substantial contribution to obesity because prime time commercials promote unhealthy dietary practices (Ostbye T et al., 1993).
Not only does watching television increase the dietary energy intake in response to food advertising, but also during viewing the programs. Children who watch a lot of television are less physically fit and tend to snack more regularly. The number of hours of television viewing also corresponds with an increased relative risk of higher cholesterol levels in children (Dietz WH & Beliizi MC, 1999). Eating meals while watching television should be discouraged because it may lead to poor eating habits.
Television also takes away from play and exercise activities. This means the energy expenditure from displacement of physical activity is reduced. It limits children’s time to develop vital activities such as playing outside, spending time with peers and parents, participating in regular exercise, and developing other not only physical, but also mental and social skills.
This chart shows that watching television has the highest percentage compared to other influences of child and adolescent obesity. Though it is not the only one.
Other media, such as magazines, radio, and the Internet also have the potential to influence children’s eating, exercise and buying habits and its mental health. Even though some video games may help the development of fine motor skills and coordination, most video games have the same negative effect as watching television. The amounts spent watching television and sitting in front of the computer can also affect a child’s postural development (Salter RB, 1983), which is an important development for many physical activities.