The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) and the American Physiological Society (“APA”) report that nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight and nearly one-third of Americans qualify as obese. The APA further reports that adult obesity jumped from 12.8% in 1980 to an astounding 30% in 2000. The most sobering statistics are regarding children as childhood obesity has skyrocketed–tripling since 1980 and primarily affecting children from low-income homes. Studies show that obese children are likely to become obese adults. The rise in childhood obesity is due to many factors, including the reduction or cancellation of physical education programs in schools, the lack of fresh, healthy food in school cafeterias, and a sedentary lifestyle which includes upwards of 32 hours of television per week for children aged 2 through 11. Age 2 and already engaged in a full-time job of watching TV!
It’s hard to break old habits. I grew up in a household where our primary activities were eating, sleeping, and watching TV. We ate meals separately and always in front of a TV. In fact, we only ate dinner together at a table twice per year: once on Christmas Eve and once on my birthday. There was always junk food in the house and we drank nothing but soda. My parents weren’t athletic in the least. There were a couple of years where my parents (mostly my dad) would occasionally ride bicycles with me, but that fizzled out pretty quickly. I was lucky enough to take the random sports class here and there–gymnastics at age 4, dance at age 7, and a brief stint as a little league cheerleader at age 10–but nothing ever stuck. My efforts at sports felt forced and awkward. It was even difficult being physically active in the summers because I was a latchkey kid who wasn’t allowed to leave the house, so I spent a lot of time reading or, you guessed it, watching TV.
So it’s no surprise that I grew up to be a sedentary adult with poor eating habits. It’s no surprise, but it’s no excuse as far as I’m concerned. I’ve met unique and interesting individuals from all over the world who lead interesting and dynamic lives, pursuing their hobbies and passions. I think about people I know who have spent their non-working life in front of a TV and it makes me sad. Why would you want to spend all your free time parked in front of a machine? (I know, I know, strange words coming from a blogger, but you know what I mean.) There’s so much else to do and so many ways to keep your mind and body active. I hope I’ve learned from my parents‘ mistakes–finally!–as I embark on a healthy new lifestyle that includes movement.
I think the key to being active and breaking those childhood habits is finding one or two things that interest you and always being open to trying new things. I find yoga and walking/jogging interesting, and I’m open to trying hiking and other sports. It gives me something to aspire to.
How do you break old habits? How do you get–and stay–active?