Recently it seems that we are inundated with news articles about how unfit the current generation of young children are. Primary school children, we are told, are getting obese. While everyone is worried about this problem, at the same time there are reports that schools are offering only an hour or two per week of PE and for the sake of health and safety are outlawing cartwheels and handstands.
Now its easy for us older ones to wax eloquent of tales about how we walked or rode bike for miles to and from school, then played outside afterschool, running, climbing trees, playing football, whatever. But that doesn’t help much. Roads carry about 10 times the cars that they did when I was a child; I remember when it was a boast that your dad had a car! Perhaps there was more open space, woodland, easy access to the countryside, parks, etc. I don’t know, but I do know we are in another age and it is hard for parents.
We didn’t play in the woods because our parents encouraged us to. We did it because there was no good alternative. We didn’t have computer games and children’s TV was for an hour before the news, and was mostly of poor quality. We walked or cycled to school, because that was the only way to get there. We didn’t even eat healthy because our parents were switched on to such things. We had a healthier diet because home cooked meat and veg was the only real option. Processed, ready foods were few and mostly rubbish. We had a bottle of Corona (not Spanish beer) maybe twice a year, in the summer, if we had visitors. We had the most economical diet and were lucky to grow up when the cheapest was actually quite healthy.
In a school of 2600, I remember two fat kids, and by fat I mean you couldn’t see their abs. We hadn’t heard of six packs then, it was called your belly, its what boys had and some of the more athletic girls too. I remember being about 15 and accepting a bet with a girl that she could do half the number of press-ups as me. Well she was a girl! I should have smelt a rat when she insisted I went first. Understand that a bottle of cider was a stake. I stopped at a hundred, thinking that a girl was unlikely to do more than 50, and she did 80! While it was unusual for a girl to do 80 press-ups, it was only unusual, not unheard of, but most of my mates could do 100 and we all smoked!
Why? Because we did PE lessons that were developed by men (this was the 70s, women didn’t develop stuff) who did National Service and PE was what you did in the army. They hadn’t heard of Health and Safety and competition was considered healthy for young people.
In short, it was a different culture.
Lets be careful not to condemn modern children for their lack of motivation, or their parents for spoiling or the schools for having to consider legal action.
We are in a different time, with different problems and different challenges.
We, an older generation, should not to be condescending about how much fitter we were, we lived in a different country. If we had been growing up now, we would be no different to this generation.
With that all said, now we might start thinking about how we help a younger generation be fitter.