Contributed by: Oyinkan Talabi- Wellness coach at Bodyworks Fitness
When I was much younger, I recall playing outside every day on our street with other children in the neighborhood every day after lunch. In those days we did not have 24 hours TV so, we would play outside till Fraggle rock or Voltron came on at 5 pm or mum came home and you hadn’t finished your homework.
Our playing included, double Dutch, suwe, ten-ten, catcher, police and thief, cow boys and Indians, then bicycle riding came up and we would get on our bicycles and ride all over the neighborhood. At the weekends, we either ended up swimming or playing lawn or tennis, taekwondo in Ikoyi club or hanging from trees at a cousin’s place. It was a life of constant physical movement. Then Nintendo and MTV came into our lives and our activity levels started reducing even though at this point we were much older and jumping up and down just wasn’t cool anymore.
That level of activity just isn’t possible anymore, or is it? Our environment has so changed that playing on your street is just not feasible for all sorts of reasons. So our children are cooped up at home in front of their gadgets, the increase of fast foods outlets with their highly addictive, highly processed foods (that have zero nutritional value) are taking up space in our neighborhoods.
The human body is a machine created primarily for movement. Lack of this destroys the body no matter the age. Think about cars that are just parked and how they fall apart all by themselves, that is also what happens to the body. Today, the number of overweight children is alarming. There is now a very serious increase in the number of children having heart problems and high blood pressure, there are other side effects of being overweight that we don’t talk about like self esteem and emotional issues.
Now, the following questions should be at the fore front of our minds, What do we do? How do we get our children active?
I strongly believe that outside of school, there has to be physical activity time for children, 1 hour of after school activities like ballet, piano lessons etc. is not enough for growing children eating high calorie foods every day.
Children shouldn’t be made to join aerobic classes or gyms lifting weights, they need activities that are fun and interactive so as to build their interpersonal skills. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right of every child and the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth”.
Bring out the footballs, the tennis rackets, the skipping ropes, swimming, encourage the formation of activity groups between children in the neighborhood. There are open air parks opening up around us and we can use these spaces for activities for the children. It is only impossible if you say it is..
If going out side is just impossible then some video games are very physical and I know adults who stay active playing tennis or dancing on play station.
The bottom line is let the children got outside and play, it is the best way to get them physically active and build a strong foundation for their lives, I hope the suggestions above help. Remember the adage, all work and no play..