Rescue the Playstation generation!
26th August 2010
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Regular post from Mike Searle, Training Director of Body4Life Health and Fitness Group.

When I were a lad, we didn’t have all these new-fangled computer thingys to keep us amused. no, our entertainment was very much ‘au natural’ – which meant football in the street, tree climbing, building camps and ‘round the school tig. We only came back indoors when our parents shouted us in for mealtimes – and we complained at that! How things have changed. The Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation, X-box, Nintendo DS, Facebook, MSN Messenger, texting, a TV in every room in the house, 24 hour multi-channel TV, a laptop per family member and a door-to-door parental taxi service has changed the structure of children’s lives immensely since my youth.

And is it for the better? Well, in terms of developing IT and technology skills, today’s children are streets ahead of my generation but in terms of basic health and fitness, I don’t think so. Now whilst that assessment is my personal opinion, recent research from the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Essex, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal has similarly identified that children’s fitness in the UK has declined by eight per cent in the last ten years, compared with an average of four per cent for the rest of the world. Oh dear. In 1998, 300 ten-year old children were tested for cardiovascular fitness using a shuttle run test and another 300 were tested in 2008. Boys were found to be nine per cent less fit with girls’ fitness declining by seven per cent. The research identified many contributory factors to this decline, including fewer school sports, less than a third of children are now involved in competitive activities, selling off school playing fields and children’s spare time being taken up with ‘technology pastimes’.

The research leader said ‘children are not doing as much physical activity as before and are using their spare time to play more computer games, watch more TV and spend more time online’. Furthermore, they said that the £1.5 billion Government initiative to encourage children to be more active had failed. Oh dear again. From a different personal perspective, my Team of Personal Trainers also work with some teenagers whose parents have seen how unfit their children have become and it is tremendously rewarding to see the rapid changes and improvements that we are able to effect with correctly structured training for our younger Personal Training Clients. So whilst I’ve previously written about the benefits of maintaining your fitness through the summer if you’re an adult, clearly that maxim is just as applicable to children and so with the school holidays in full swing, this week I’m looking at ideas and strategies to help you rescue the Playstation generation (and then they’ll be too tired to argue in the evening!).

Walk the walk. If I was a foot soldier in the trenches and my Commanding Officer shouted ‘over the top’ but then popped back under cover instead of leading us out, I don’t think I’d have followed orders. However if he’d led by example, I’d be much more inclined to get involved. So you’ll find it pretty difficult to cajole your kids to be fit and active if you’re subscribing to the Playstation culture yourself. Instead you’ve got to demonstrate that you’re keeping fit and it’s part of your lifestyle because then your children are far more likely to follow suit.

It’s a children’s world. Here’s a personal example. At the beginning of the school holidays, my daughters expressed a desire to keep fit for their netball training (which ceases during the summer) by doing some running. So, we went for a short run together (it doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be a marathon!) and I ensured that it was a fun activity. Now sadly I don’t take six weeks holiday during the summer so I’m not around all the time for every family activity. Well lo and behold I came home one day only to find that they’d taken their own initiative and gone out running without me! No cajoling from me, their choice, what they wanted to do. They worked out their own route and even timed it. Even better, they’ve been going out approximately every other day, again, on their own initiative and have now started extending their distance because they’re enjoying it and finding their original route a bit easy! Let your children decide what they want to do, encourage them and see the results follow.

We want to be together! Here’s another personal example. Only last weekend, as a family we drove down to Lake Vyrnwy (near Welshpool) and together we all cycled the 11 mile circumference of the lake. Not for health and fitness reasons but simply as an enjoyable family activity. Vyrnwy was a great choice on several fronts because it’s incredibly scenic and the route is completely flat and a fun, family outing cunningly doubled up with fitness benefits too! Yes there was ice-cream at the end but hey, after 11 miles, my daughters had earned it! Of course you don’t need to go far afield because with Delamere Forest and the Greenway available locally, there are plenty of similar opportunities.

 Holiday fun! This one’s a doddle. Whilst en vaccances, activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, beach games and evening football are easy to organise, cheap to do and of course great fun. From personal experience I can tell you that a day spent with your kids digging five tons of sand, doing Usain Bolt impressions up and down the beach and scoring the winning goal for Searle United is a pretty good calorie burner as well as keeping all your fitness systems burning brightly! So, improvise, get active and you’ll have fun as well as keeping fit!

. . . and finally,  So, do you want your children to be the most manually dexterous members of the human race of all time due to endless computer game use or to be all round fit and healthy through leading a more balanced life? Well if it’s the latter, try leading by example, letting your kids choose, getting family active and having fun on holiday. Sign up for the Playstation generation rescue mission today! Enjoy combating Sony, Nintendo etc from all the body4life health & fitness Team – that’s me, Duncan, Dave, Alison and Tony (here begins the technology backlash!).

About the Author

Steve N

Member since: 24th January 2011

Steve is Commercial Director of thebestofchester.

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