Exercise and activity-- 06/03/10

Recently I found an entry on some web site where the author was pontificating on the problem of obesity in kids today. (Dunno how I got there; I was probably scrolling along someplace like Instapundit and came across a link.) Anyway, it's not that I'm denying that a problem exists (unlike many of the topics that lead to journalistic hand-wringing, this actually is real); however, this particular writer decided that the root cause was feminism because that led to an increase in divorce, children born out of wedlock, and women pursuing careers -- all of which led to children sitting home alone watching television and eating junk food. I think this is yet another case of someone deciding that all problems have their roots in whatever it is that they don't like. In this case the author obviously was not a feminist. It's ridiculous the way some people obsess about a particular bÍte noire -- and then they blame that for everything that they see as going wrong. (I suppose a different writer might find that global warming was responsible or perhaps video games.) This author never did get around to considering the high incidence of obesity among adults (and thus, never had to consider how feminism could explain that) nor explain the increase in obesity in other nations as well. (Can American feminism cause increases in obesity in China and Brazil?)

However, life for kids today is far different from what it was 'way back when...

When I was a kid -- No, I'm not going to tell you how I walked fifteen miles to school -- each way -- every day -- uphill both ways -- through raging blizzards, etc. No... when I was a kid it was .37 of a mile from my house to my grade school. (Yes, I checked my usual route using Google pedometer.) I walked that every day to school and back home again. Total almost three quarters of a mile. That was for half day kindergarten. The rest of the day would probably involve a lot of outdoor play either with friends in the neighborhood or just by myself in our backyard. First grade through sixth grade, same thing except double the mileage because I came home for lunch every day. (In six years I think I stayed at school for lunch maybe twice.) That becomes almost a mile and a half. But we also played outside for recess every day unless it was raining (and if it was, we played in the gym). That wasn't counting the couple of times a week that we would have physical education class. And, of course, we would play after school... and, as we got older, after dinner as well. That playing would often include a lot of running. Between walking and running we probably covered miles each day. Summers and weekends meant even more physical activity. Going to the park? Half a mile to the wading pool, three-quarters of a mile to the upper play area. That's one way. Add splashing, running, swinging, sliding, then walk back home. Want to go swimming? Eight tenths of a mile to the beach via the shortest route. Swim, run around, then walk back home.

Those walks to the park or the beach would have been, of course, under maternal supervision when we were little, but certainly by the time we were in third grade we would be making those treks on our own. Of course this did not exactly mean we were without adult supervision -- this was back in a time when a neighborhood was an actual community and any adult would have felt empowered (and expected) to bark a quick command of "Hey, you kids, cut that out now!" should any kind of misbehavior be observed... and would have expected to be obeyed... and news would get back to your parents. (As I mentioned a few years ago when I described hanging out by Bigando's Market and some of the football games we would play in the empty lot next to the store.)

Being a kid was a very physical thing then... lots of walking and running and climbing and riding bikes, etc. When we were twelve and reached seventh grade we went to the junior high school. The junior high was near the high school and we generally caught a bus (public transit) to get to school in the morning but, unless the weather was really nasty, we would walk home from school, a distance of not quite two miles. In fact, as teenagers, on a Saturday, we might walk to "uptown" (the main shopping district) which was a bit over three miles. After spending the afternoon hanging around there, we would walk back home for dinner and then we might walk back there that night to see a movie. (If not, we might well walk there on Sunday afternoon to see a movie.) Lots and lots and lots of walking.

We didn't have a television until I was in third grade, but television then was pretty much radio with pictures. That is, many of the early television programs were based on popular radio programs. People listened to radio shows -- mysteries and comedies and soap operas and variety show -- I loved listening to the radio -- but it wasn't the every-waking-hour kind of thing that many people seem to do with television. I also was a reader and spent many happy hours sitting and reading a book, but that didn't keep me from getting in plenty of play time with lots of physical activity.

All of my kids have been physically active. They've all grown up in a world of television -- and Jill and Jeremy also had computers and video games around. (I think Adam was about ten or so when I bought him a video game that connected to a television, but can't remember if it was Pong or just some Pong-like game.) Jill was in Kindergarten when we got our first PC. I think Jeremy was about six when we bought our first Windows computer. That's when he got interested in the computer, when he could make things happen by using a mouse rather than having to type stuff.

Despite these electronic distractions, they've all been involved physical activities. We would go to parks and swing and climb and run around. In high school Adam competed in three varsity sports -- track, swim, and cross country -- as well as being responsible for getting me started with road races.

Jill and Jeremy each started playing soccer at around age five. Jill played in parks-and-rec co-ed leagues and on a girls' travel team and also played indoor soccer -- and ran and took part in parks-and-rec track and field -- and played softball from late grade school on up to fast-pitch teenage girls' teams -- and junior high cross country -- and high school junior varsity cross country and indoor track, until she tired of the time required for team practice on top of personal training. She kept on running in road races with me and she still runs in events ranging from 5K to 10 miles.

Jeremy also went through soccer, coed parks-and-rec leagues in Binghamton and then in a boys' league after we moved to Rhode Island. In fact, before jimsjounal, my first web page was one for his soccer team (which, as I think I may have mentioned here many years ago, Nancy and I coached -- she was the lead coach and I was assistant coach, which makes sense when you realize she had actually played soccer in a coed IBM employee soccer league back when she worked for them in Endicott but I have never played an organized game of soccer in my life). Jeremy did go out for wrestling one year in high school (and I swear I wrote an entry about zig-zagging across the state one Saturday trying to find the town where he was supposed to be in a wrestling meet except he had the name of the town wrong, but I can't seem to find it... well, we never found the meet either). He enjoyed working out -- still does -- and I can remember that in high school he could benchpress the equivalent of his own weight (and he was not little). I don't think he has been lifting much in that weight range in recent years, but it is still impressive to watch him working out.

I got my stitches out today. I'm supposed to continue to wear the moonboot for a couple more weeks and then go back for another checkup (on the 21st). I know I have to still baby my heel -- oh, don't worry, it still has enough residual ache and tenderness that I know I can't really put my weight on it. But it drives me crazy to look out the window and see people running. (Heck, it makes me jealous just to see people out for brisk exercise walks.) Yeah, patience, patience. Patients must be patient. Jill asked me today if I thought that I'd be able to run the Narragansett Blessing of the Fleet. Uh, ten miles, held on the last day of July. Duh... I'll be lucky if I can begin to do some easy jogging during the first week or so of July. I'll count myself lucky to be able to run the CVS Downtown 5K in mid-September. Maybe I'll be able to do the Blessing next summer.

Ah well, enough chattering about getting exercise. Here's a picture I took of Tiger this afternoon curled up for a nap (exhausted after keeping guard at the window).

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