Fat adults breed fat kids, and Bermuda has a weight problem
Imagine an eight-year-old telling you she’s too old to do physical exercise, while others complain it causes too much sweat.
Our high-tech world has created a generation of children who lead relatively sedentary lives, their exercise linked to remote controls.
In a bid to reverse the disturbing trend, the Bermuda Heart Foundation will host the 5th annual Jump 2B Fit Campaign, featuring world champion Comet Skippers from Mason, Ohio.
Hundreds of primary and middle school students will help raise public awareness on the importance of cardiovascular exercise as part of the events, sponsored by the Argus Group and Somersfield Academy.
Workshops are scheduled for March 1 and March 4 at Somersfield Academy, with plans underway to expand the programme for teenagers and adults.
Sionna Barton, who leads a Government after-school programme, believes jumping rope is one of the best exercises in the world for children.
“Once you get a child away from the Xbox or the Wii and give them a simple jump rope, they’ll go at it for hours by themselves,” the BHF executive said.
“We’ve all sort of forgotten how easy children are amused with simple things especially in today’s hi-tech, sedentary lifestyle society.
“We’ve had a great response from children and we show them different tricks so that they never get bored.”
Getting past the ‘couch potato’ mentality has its challenges, especially for children used to playing PlayStation and other video games for hours on end, she added.
The rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease show how little they move. ALL THIS APPLIES TO KIDS? DO WE HAVE ANY ACTUAL RATES?
Ms Barton described the level of physical fitness for children in Bermuda as “appalling”.
“Sadly it’s a growing epidemic, not just here, but worldwide. Even the children who are not overweight are not in good shape,” she said.
“Every day I get children who cannot do ten push-ups or ten sit-ups. Some don’t even know what they are.
“Those old wheelbarrow races we used to do, we find many who just can’t hold themselves up long enough to finish a 20-yard race.
“After 100 jumping jacks some children complain it makes them sweat too much and they’re tired after only a few minutes. One eight-year-old girl told me that she’s too old for this stuff.
“But once you push them and challenge them to actually do it, they love it.”
There’s also increasing evidence that the problems associated with sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits are being passed on.
Said Ms Barton: “Children are a product of their environment, and we’re seeing the results of learned behaviour like bad eating habits, physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles.
“Children mimic their parents which is why it’s so very important for parents to lead by example. If mom and dad are couch potatoes it’s not rocket science to know that chances are their children will be the same.
“The problem is huge, not just in Bermuda, but worldwide and a lot of these habits lead to heart disease.
“It’s the number one killer worldwide. Three hundred thousand people die from heart disease each year and Bermuda also leads the world in amputations for diabetes,” she said.
“This is something every family and every child in the family should know. You should also know your family’s health history.”
Heavy consumption of junk food and fried fast food is another problem, especially for children.
“It’s basically loading a gun and shooting things like cholesterol straight into their veins and arteries,” said Ms Barton.
“We push the 80-20 rule spend 80 percent of your time living and making healthy choices and 20 percent on eating KitKat chocolates, but try to do it in moderation.
“I don’t have children of my own, but if I had a penny for every time I heard ‘expand your taste buds’, I wouldn’t be working today.
“My mother would put a plate in front of me and say this is what you’re having for dinner and don’t get up from the table until you’ve finished. When a child only wants to eat junk food that’s learned behaviour.
“Chances are it was someone charged with their health and welfare who taught them that learned behaviour as well.”
Students and parents are urged to train to heighten their fitness for healthy hearts for the massive jump rope session with the Comet Skippers.
Eighteen coaches will help equip teachers and coaches with new skill sets to promote better health throughout the school year.
The workshop is by invitation only, with all public and private schools invited to attend.
Said Ms Barton: “The younger we get them the better because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The Bermuda Heart Foundation is hoping to raise $150,000 to heighten public awareness about Bermuda’s number one killer.
Residents are urged to support the Go-Red Denim Day Campaign by wearing red and making a pledge on Friday, February 1.
The BHF is hosting the campaign in association with the American Heart Association, which has designated February as Heart Month.
Proceeds will also be raised through other fundraising events including the purchase of Let’s Go Red bumper stickers; people are asked to donate a minimum of $5 per sticker.
Donations will support life-saving efforts that include public education programmes advocating better health, teaching health professionals, youth fitness programmes and reaching people at high risk.
Heart Month will be followed by the 5th annual Jump 2B Fit Campaign which will see a series of workshops at Somersfield Academy on March 1 and March 4.
Foundation spokeswoman Sionna Barton believes “we have the ability to greatly diminish the number of overweight children, teenagers and young adults in Bermuda”.
“As an advocate for physical fitness and nutrition, we can help this generation be stronger and live longer, instead of becoming more sick and dying younger,” she said.
“Our aim is to continue to increase the number of people looking to take control of their health and live an active, healthy lifestyle.”
She said that a total of 1,243 people were screened by BHF during the Heart Month Awareness Campaign in 2012 the organisation hopes to double that this year.
“We’re fighting childhood obesity and promoting heart health awareness in our adults to strengthen the heart of Bermuda one beat at a time,” Ms Barton added.
The BHF operates CORE, a centre aimed at the prevention of the disease and rehabilitation of those with it.
“We deal with people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, people who are obese and people who have a family history of heart disease,” she said.
“We work with you to garner a lifestyle modification plan that will put you on the right track to becoming heart healthy.
“Small changes will lead to big lifestyle changes, day by day, one day at a time.
“We need the entire family unit and adults in the workplace on board to fight it. Reaching children when they’re young will go a long way to prevent health problems in the long run.”
She added: “The bottom line is, with escalating healthcare costs, we cannot afford to have our students continue to be as negligent with their health as they have been.
“The younger we get them to adopt healthy lifestyles the better and we’re also expanding efforts to reach more adults.”