You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine study that suggests the current generation of children will be the first in the last 200 years to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
The reason? The rate of obesity has skyrocketed among our youth and higher rates of obesity lead to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure and cancer.
So how did this happen?
I know that a lot of it has to do with the horrible food kids eat, which is highly processed and high in sugar and other carbohydrates. [Have you noticed how high-fructose corn syrup is in almost everything now?]
But we ate horrible food when I was a kid too.
We gobbled down tons of Corn Pops and Honey Smacks, which used to be called Sugar Pops and Sugar Smacks.
I don’t think companies reduced the amount of sugar they put in those cereals — they just took sugar out of the name to make moms think they’re OK to feed to the kids.
I mean, I know they’re not just made from corn and honey now.
We also drank oceans of Kool-Aid, back when you had to add your own sugar to it — about a cup of sugar to every quart, as I remember.
But despite all that sugar, my friends and I were still pretty thin.
Maybe the only difference between then and now is that we used to “play,” while today’s teens “hang out.”
I know it’s just semantics, but there’s a connotation behind those words worth examining.
You “play” a sport, or a game, but you “hang out” at someone’s house, or at the mall.
“Playing” almost always involves movement, while “hanging out” doesn’t, necessarily.
One thing I’ve noticed is that kids don’t like to be outside as much now.
We didn’t have a choice. On summer break, our moms would kick us out of the house in the morning and we couldn’t come back in, except for lunch and dinner.
And even on cold winter days, we’d spend a good portion of the day outside playing in the snow.
I saw a sitcom recently in which the parents of a teenage daughter were trying to sell her on the joys of playing outside.
“You could build a fort, honey,” they said.
The daughter just looked at them like they should have their heads examined.
So maybe playing has simply ceased to be cool. But wouldn’t changing that attitude be a good start?
I know the athletes I cover who “play” youth sports in the Verde Valley are very cool. And not only that, they are all physically fit.
I understand that it’s a different world now. Kids have computers and video games — a lot of things to keep them indoors and inactive.
But even if they’re not the “sports” type, getting kids to love the outdoors by taking them swimming, biking, or on a nature walk might just be the impetus they need to make a healthy change.
And then maybe they’ll outlive us all.
For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Nov. 6, issue of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.