Today’s Editorial July 09: Children’s fitness

There is a rising concern in the Cayman Islands about the fitness of our children.

More people are becoming worried about what appears to be an increase in overweight children who are living sedentary lives. It’s a case of simple math, say fitness experts. A lifestyle of too many calories in and too few calories burned results in a variety of risks and challenges.

It is time for parents, teachers, health professionals and government officials to find out if there really is a growing problem with our children’s weight. The Cayman Islands needs a proper survey to determine if the trend is real. If it does exist, then it is our responsibility to formulate a strategy to correct it.

Figure and bodybuilding champion Agueda Broderick, a former Ms Cayman, is raising the alarm based on her observations (Caymanian Compass; 5 July 2007; page 23) as a fitness instructor. She says the fat levels of Caymanian children have exploded in recent years and something must be done immediately to reverse course. Ms Broderick will lead a fitness camp for kids this summer in an effort to address the problem.

Given the popularity of video games, television and junk food, it is a challenge to get kids off the couch and outside where they can work up a sweat. One problem is that many adults think only of competitive sports as a healthy activity for children. The reality, however, is that many children are turned off by competitive sports. A significant number of them do not have any desire to play a sport. Therefore, it is important to spread the message that fun exercise is an option too. A creative and positive fitness instructor can make a workout pure joy for children, as it should be. Exercise apart from sports competitions may be more important than many people realize. Yes, competitive sports may serve to keep children and adults fit while they participate in them, but what happens when the cheering stops? What does the person do when they feel they are too old to tackle or slide into third base? If they have never become comfortable with exercise for the sake of exercise they may have problems. There are many ex-athletes who let their fitness fade away after the final whistle.

It is important to understand that concern about the weight of our children is not about conforming to ideal body types promoted in music videos, fashion magazines, movies and on television. This is about children being healthy and active so that they can develop properly and enjoy their lives. A child who is consistently given too many high-calorie, sugar-filled foods to eat and never encouraged to exercise or at least engage in vigorous play is a child that is being set up for possible severe consequences in adulthood. As a society, we owe them more.