I’ve encountered some alarming news from Wales which, despite me being an English girl currently living in Switzerland, is a place very close to home for me.
Since I was a little girl we have had a family holiday cottage in the stunning Snowdonia region of the country. It is a truly mountainous wonderland and a haven for exploration, mountaineering, climbing, hiking, abseiling and all manner of outward bound pursuits. And it is where my lifelong love of all this was forged.
Worrying about Wales
Wales is not a big country by any standards – 3 million people spread over 20,000 sq. km. It is a rugged country of hills, mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and the most stunning coastline. It is where rugby transcends sport and takes on such a cultural significance it pretty much defines this amazing nation.
The outdoor life is intrinsic to the Welsh and the thundering, pounding, exhilarating sport of rugby takes on an almost religious mantle.
And yet from this country we now know that more than a quarter of all children are technically overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity is a global timebomb
This is the kind of statistic we are used to hearing from around the world, particularly the USA where some states are seeing the majority of adults tipping over into obesity, and 40% of adults and 20% of teenagers nationwide now classified as obese.
In fact these statistics are becoming so commonplace the danger is we are becoming deaf and blind to them.
We know about this crisis in America, in Europe, across the UK generally, and further afield, but somehow seeing Welsh children succumbing to this terrible trend is a massive additional alarm call.
This is a huge worry
I’d like to be hopeful and have the answer, but that is just not the case. This terrible malaise is just not going to reverse itself thanks to government initiatives, education or, dare I say it, worried health and fitness experts writing articles and drawing attention to it!
The compulsion to get outside and play is dying and has been for a generation. If this suddenly reverted to how things were when I was a little girl, the entire gaming industry would instantly collapse, and I don’t see them letting that happen any time in the future.
I don’t know if you have seen the brilliant animated movie Wall-E, but there’s a prescient element of the film where people in the future are shown permanently lying and sitting on flying chair/beds that provide them with all their information, communication and entertainment requirements. The result of this is that their skeletal systems are no longer able to support their bloated bodies.
OK, so that is a bit drastic, but kids today are already spending 10+ hours a day gaming and there are special seats they can sit in that connect to the games and have speakers etc. The Wall-E scenario might seem like a pessimistic view of a distant future, but it is becoming easier and easier to join the dots on the journey between now and then.
Childhood obesity becomes adult obesity, ill health, poor quality of life, strain on the health service and curtailed lifespans. In this regard, the future is not bright.
The Last Generation?
I am more and more aware that people around my age make up the last generation to have grown up without video games, computers, mobile phones, ‘devices’, hundreds of 24 hour-a-day TV channels and everything that devours peoples ever-shrinking attention these days. I know it sounds like the boring cliche of a proper ‘oldie’, but we got outside and made our own fun. If not, we stayed inside and made our own fun, but whatever happened there was more physicality to it than sitting in front of a screen.
We are also the last era pre-descent into rampaging obesity, heart disease and diabetes in youngsters. Coincidence?
So what can we do? I suspect the best that can be hoped for is that we disrupt and stall this descent into increasingly grim stats. And I feel like it is up to us as ‘the last line of defense’. We need to set an example, we must not settle for shutting the kids up by letting them gawp in front of a giant TV or computer screen for hours, days, weeks and months on end, often whilst eschewing proper family meals and grazing on rubbish food.
It might sound all a bit schoolteacher-like but we really have to set an example to our kids and, in turn, they can influence others and will pass on the same messages and values to future generations. This might put the brakes on the gathering momentum of childhood obesity.
It won’t turn back the tide but it can slow things down and ensure a future of fat people living on flying beds is kept as far over the distant horizon as possible.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Joey Bull
- Lead image picture of Joey Bull by John Dietrich. Taken at Dolwyddelan Castle, Snowdonia, Wales.