Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, March 24, 2017

Generational Report on Health

"Statistically, we're not doing so well. It's profound, just to summarize, that a 12-year-old is taller, heavier, rounder, weaker, less flexible and less aerobically fit than a generation ago."
"These are very profound and, from a health perspective, very important changes we've seen over time."
"Scientifically the fitness of our nation has declined. We've demonstrated quite recently that aerobic fitness in children around the world has declined, in a systematic way across the last several decades. Again, not that surprising."
"The decline is slower in mid- and lower-income countries where they walk to school, do their chores, and need to lift things."
"You can't go out in the morning because of mosquitoes and the risk of West Nile [virus]. Later in the day, there is rush-hour traffic ... pollution. Sun causes skin cancer."
"[A societal change is required] Incidental eating is reduced [by habitually going outdoors]. Steps increase. Connection with the environment is improved. The chances of authentic interaction with people, animals, plants is infinitely greater. And on it goes."
"You've got to eat well, move well, sleep well and avoid toxins. It's as simple as that. We can make it as complicated and as sexy as we want. Sell supplements and fancy gadgets or whatever, the basics always rise to the top."
"As we reflect back on 150 years, we have a heritage as frontierspeople -- nature and the outdoors are almost synonymous with what it was like to be Canadian, whether it's canoeing across a lake or snowshoeing through a forest."
"And the great outdoors is still there. We are the second-biggest country in the world, probably the most beautiful, and physical activity opportunities are endless."
Dr. Mark Tremblay, professor of pediatric medicine, University of Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Tremblay who is director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, several years ago published a scientific paper. He used Statistics Canada data from 2007 to 2009 to establish that a typical 12-year-old boy and girl in 1981 were far more healthy, agile, stronger than their 2007 counterparts. And that disparity over the succeeding years only intensified. The reason is simple enough; far less time spend outdoors and far less time devoted to exercise, sports and just being what was at an earlier time, a typical child.

The waist circumference of a 12-year-old girl increased, according to Dr. Tremblay's report, by
six centimetres in the 1981/2007 comparison period, while the grip strength of a boy of the same age in the very same period of comparison declined by ten percent. The shift in childhood activities over the past thirty years has not been kind to the health of the younger generation. And youth grow into maturity, becoming adults whose health has already been compromised from a younger age.

Once, generations ago, it was a common sight to see children out and about on their own or in groups everywhere. In parks climbing trees, tossing balls, playing games, wrestling about after school. "Just thinking about grip strength, children today grip, very gently, their smartphones, not a tree branch, and not the scruff of someone's neck", commented Dr. Tremblay. "

Physical inactivity remains the fourth-leading risk factor for mortality, contributing to an estimated 3.2 million deaths each year, around the world, according to figures released by the World Health Organization. That kind of sedentary behaviour, quite unnatural for human beings, but becoming the cultural norm, has another cost; because of the impact on health, the wider impact is on the Canadian economy, costing it an estimated $6.8-billion in 2009.

Rising rates of Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and heart attack, hits the economy, resulting from increased and ever-spiralling health costs, along with the impact of workplace absenteeism. And it will only become more so as time goes on if there is not another, ameliorating, cultural shift that encourages children to get out more in the natural world and once again begin behaving as children everywhere are meant to do; explore, play, be active.

A simple alteration of the culture, leading to an increase in physical activity to reduce sedentary behaviour would have the effect of reducing health-care spending by over $2-billion by the year 2040, according to calculations by the Conference Board of Canada, in a 2014 report. As for adult fitness, the prognoses is grimmer still. Health Canada reported in 2015 that 54 percent of Canadian adults are considered to be overweight or obese, while the percentage in the overweight/obese category for adolescents 12 to 17 is 23.1 percent.

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