What’s the best solution to eating less junk: graphic warning labels, higher taxes or simply EDUCATION?
This morning, most houses are waking up in a state of sugar shock. Chocolate smeared faces are wondering, “is there any candy left?” as they peer through bleary eyes still half-covered with costume makeup. “I gotta have my fix!” the five-year old thinks, planning on ways to hide his candy from his big brother. Moms and dads are sneaking bites of mini Mars bars as they tell their kids, “no more than three pieces!”. But at the same time, they are wondering how many more they can steal before their child notices.
Now, imagine that the pieces of candy, earned on a cold and rain-soaked night of trick-or-treating, have a picture of a fat addled liver right across the front. Gross, right? Yes. Appropriate for Halloween? Maybe. An effective tool to stop a kid from eating the delicious treat? Probably not.
“If we don’t start taking immediate action now, our health-care system will soon be overwhelmed by the demands of a completely preventable complication associated with obesity,” said OMA (Ontario Medical Association) President Dr. Doug Weir as he tabled the OMA’s proposal to put warning labels on junk food last week. The proposal didn’t stop at graphic labels, however, and included a rather extensive list ranging from increasing taxes on junk food to restricting marketing of unhealthy foods geared towards young children.
The proposal met with a wide range of reaction, ranging from positive to negative. Advocates say that this is the kind of jolt consumers need, making them painfully aware of just how extreme the negative results of a continued unhealthy lifestyle can be. Detractors say that it is waging a war on food and small businesses (convenience stores, family restaurants, etc.) and not helping advocate the most important lifestyle choice of all – Balance and Moderation.
Many people think it’s kind of silly.
Showing the bloody and scarred foot of a diabetic on a candy wrapper can seem kind of frightening, but I don’t think this will stop (most) children from eating it. In fact, kids seem fascinated by gore, and would probably just remark “ew!!!” as they ripped the wrapper open, stuffing their faces anyway. A scary picture is NOT teaching children the fundamentals of why healthy eating is important, and how to balance it with occasional indulgences and an active lifestyle. It’s basically trying to scare them away from the problem, hoping they’ll learn something along the way.
Instead of hiding the existence of junk food from children or restricting marketing (which in an internet age is impossible!), we should be teaching them about what goes into junk food, why advertisers are trying to win them over, and how the food affects their bodies. Then, the kids can make informed choices and feel like they have some form of control over their own decisions, which they are making for the right reasons.
Rather than hand down limited information because we are trying to “protect” them, we should be teaching our youngest generation. A well-informed person can make critical thinking decisions in all aspects of life, and that kind of critical thinking should be taught at a very young age.
The OMA cites the success of warning labels on cigarettes as the reason they think this would work. Besides the fact that cigarettes are completely different than candy, high fat foods, and processed snacks, they are a carcinogen that has no place in human consumption besides a social and addictive action. Food is food. We eat food. We cannot live without eating food. So, it goes to say that teaching children what is good vs. what is bad is 10,000 times more effective than trying to scare them away.
We should be informing our youth, and allowing them to think broadly about topics. We should respect their ability to learn, develop, and use their growing minds. Yes, we should also lead by example and lend a helping hand, but hiding from something never helped anyone. Nor will it help our children.
Recently, the Globe and Mail’s “War on Childhood Obesity” was brought to EMA’s attention, which includes national news coverage of the increasingly frightening health crisis children are facing today. With so many factors working against making physical activity, fitness and healthy eating an easy solution, children are becoming rounder, weaker and fatter than ever before. Dr. Peter Lin, CBC’s medical columnist, recently spoke to the fact that more and more children are being diagnosed with adult diseases, like high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. This in itself is alarming, but the negative statistics don’t stop there. Children are doing poorly in school, their emotional well-being is compromised, and they are not learning to think critically about what they eat and drink. These facts, among a large number of scary statistics, highlights the need for programming like that which EMA provides.
Need more proof?
A school in Mississauga, not associated with EMA but certainly thinking the same way, has started its own in-house morning fitness class. They have replaced first period with a gym class that actually involves moving in a way that gets kids breathing heavily, their hearts pumping, and the sweat pouring. The obvious argument one would imagine is, “take away first period and you take away an hour’s worth of learning!!”. However, the exact opposite is true. The children, after burning off a significant amount of energy in the morning, reap the rewards of increased focus, less agitation, and clearer thinking skills for the remainder of the day. Yes, they may be sacrificing an hour, but in doing so, they gain the rest of the school day without disruption back. Teachers compliment the program because they say they can now enjoy students who actually pay attention in class and are actively involved in their own learning.
See the testimonial below:
It is well-documented the the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD has been increasing in recent years. More and more kids are being drugged because they “cannot pay attention” or “cannot focus” on a topic for more than a moment. The band-aid solution of medication without considering why this is happening is unacceptable. In my opinion (me being Aniko Kaszas – EMA’s Director of Communications), the concurrent decline in physical activity should be looked at very carefully. If your kids aren’t getting enough exercise in their daily routine, why would you be surprised that they cannot pay attention in school? I would be interested to see a study that pits Ritalin against exercise. Now, of course it is clear that there are some children that are at an extreme level and do need some assistance, but not in the numbers we see today.
So, why aren’t more schools adopting fitness programming? Why so slow on the uptake? It is hard to initiate a change, and their are a lot of roadblocks, but in the end it will be utterly worth it. As a parent, teacher, concerned community member or student, make your voice heard. Let it be known that this kind of movement programming, whether provided by a company like EMA or internally by the school itself, is fundamentally important. There is so much fear out there in the parent world with regards to leaving one’s kids in the park until the sun sets, and for justifiable reason. So let schools and associated institutions help, and let’s get our kids back on their feet.
Counting the clicks on a pedometer can help parents ensure that kids are meeting their daily physical activity targets, a new Canadian-led study suggests.
Kids should accumulate about 12,000 steps a day to maintain healthy physical activity levels, according to research from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. The step-count figure includes the 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity recommended daily for Canadian children and teens, said study lead author Rachel Colley.
Moderate physical activities include brisk walking, skating and bike riding, while playing basketball, soccer, running and swimming are examples of vigorous activities, according to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.
While most people are used to the idea that adults should take about 10,000 steps a day, a similar target for children was undetermined, said Colley, a junior research scientist at the CHEO Research Institute.
Given that kids tend to need more activity and are more active by nature, researchers did know the figure should probably be higher than that of adults, she added.
“For quite some time, we were using a value of 13,500 steps per day, but it didn’t have a lot of evidence behind it,” Colley said.
“That was the sort of background of why we felt this study would be important — so that we would have a better target to give to people for children.”
Drawing on data from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Health Measures Survey collected from 2007 to 2009, researchers looked at a sample of 1,613 children and youth aged six to 19.
Colley said the kids wore accelerometers capable of measuring how much physical activity they were getting as well as their step counts. They were all monitored for a week-long period but at different times during the year.
Analysis of different age groups and gender was conducted looking at how the number of activity minutes measured predicted step count. Researchers then determined a value of the number of steps active kids were getting in a day.
“We looked at that range and it was pretty close to 12,000 for most kids,” she said.
Colley said the pedometer and corresponding step count target provide an objective measure of daily activity.
“It’s easy enough to report, as you say, 60 minutes of a sports game, but it’s really hard to sort of capture the activity that we get across the whole day… whether it’s kids walking to and from school, or just walking around at recess or playing a bit at recess,” she said.
“They’re accumulating little bits of steps throughout the day, and that’s really hard for people to remember, really hard for parents to report on a questionnaire.”
Colley said some research suggests that people accumulate about 7,500 steps daily with no organized physical activity. The suggested 60 minutes of daily physical activity adds another couple of thousand steps to bring the step-count figure to 12,000, she added.
Colley said another reason for publishing the paper is due to the wide availability and accessibility of pedometers to the public.
“Kids are pretty used to seeing them now, and even teachers use them in school sometimes. The whole concept of pedometers is becoming more mainstream, ” she said.
“Having a target that’s out there for the public to use, I think, is one of the main goals of this paper. We now have this number 12,000 steps per day that kids should be striving for.”
The findings were published in the May edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Published by Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press.
The famous American dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, is quoted as saying,
“I don’t think politicians who are not familiar with their bodies should be allowed into power, because that’s where our bottom line is. And I know that they would make totally different decisions if they felt responsible simply for their own bodies.”
At this time, as many of us Canadians are aware, the NDP is in the process of electing a new leader. The late Jack Layton saw to the Orange wave reaching new and incredible heights, and it was a sad day when the news of his untimely death hit the airwaves.
Jack Layton was an active, healthy, and fitness-conscious person. Outside of any political affiliation, one had to have respect for the political leader who was known to cycle into work every day, eschewing the oft-favoured town cars of many of his compatriots. He had an infectious energy, an easy smile, and a strong commitment to the Canadian people. In the letter penned in his final days, Jack’s now famous final words found their way onto the Facebook wall of many a Canadian, NDP supporter or not.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
This man truly believed in the individual’s power to change the world. He may have been betrayed by his body in the end, but he belonged in it until that final moment. He was not disconnected. He was present. He knew his physical self, and it informed his character and mentality. Insofar as keeping fit, he did so in body and mind, and I would hazard to say that his focus on physical fitness helped keep his mind sharp and keenly focused.
We can’t say the same about all politicians, Mayors included, and Twyla Tharp’s words ring so true at this moment. Furthermore, these words apply to people in ALL walks of life, not just in the political realm.
We must maintain our physical selves at peak performance level, even if we are working behind a desk day by day. The road might be more difficult for that person, but then that is their challenge. And it is fair to say that starting young, building a foundational love for movement in youth, helps ease the path.
Creating habits in our children that emulate those of a passionate, physically active and open minded person is our job, and we must rise to the task. With the statistics regarding obesity in children becoming more and more alarming with each passing day it is upon the community (it’s leaders AND it’s members) to band together and demonstrate what is truly important.
The greatest wealth one can amass is a full life, lived healthfully, respectfully (of oneself and ones peers) and with passion. We must not teach our children to sit idly by as their lives pass them, because in real life, there is no reset button. When the game ends, there is no new chance at life.
Take a moment to impress upon your children how important movement is, even in the busiest of times. Take the time to have exciting, outdoor experiences, or family gatherings that involve more than just dinner at the table, and drinks by the fireside. Move, move, move, and you and your children will reap the rewards of that physicality. They will be the future, and let’s trust that a future generation could benefit greatly from being more connected to their physical selves.
Hello, and welcome to EMA’s blog! Check back here for updates, thoughts on interesting news and research, and information on how to keep children healthy and active in our modern, under-exercised and overfed society.
Although we posted a letter of appeal on the blog site when it was launched, this is the very first official blog post. We’re pretty excited!
Side Note: The aforementioned letter of appeal is an incredibly important letter that you all should read. It details our efforts to go as far as changing school policy so that we can run our programs in schools at any time after classes, as opposed to during small windows of time when it might be very difficult for some kids to make it back to take part. Not all school boards are the same, but some so not allow non not-for-profits to use their facilities before 6:00 pm, even if the programming is incredibly beneficial to children. If you or anyone you know can help us with our appeal, please don’t hesitate to contact us. It’s so very important that kids have the opportunity to make HEALTHY and LASTING changes in their lives, and having school boards put any roadblocks in place is essentially having those in charge support lasting ill-health in our children.
Now… Back to blogging! This first post aims to tell you a little more about the people working for EMA, and how they have been active in the community thus far.
Last week, Monika Wawrow, Tanya Miller and Aniko Kaszas hosted a nutrition and health seminar at St. Josephine Bakhita school in Brampton. The seminar was very successful, and we have to admit, we learned just about as much as the kids. How? Well, they learned a great deal of information regarding healthy choices for life, activity and nutrition choices for children, and how to make positive health-related changes in their homes. WE, on the other hand, learned a lot about keeping the attention of a group of 13 year olds on us.
It was not easy.
The material was definitely interesting to the students. They asked a lot of questions, made some insightful comments, and even participated in some high-energy physical activities. Nonetheless, their attention would still wander, and many side conversations were happening among the kids. That said, it was rewarding to hear things like, “I’M NEVER EATING McDONALDS AGAIN” in those side conversations.
The attention span of the students might have been a bit better had the children made some different nutrition choices. The right kinds of foods in a young body can actually help with alertness and attention, and we brought a list of ideas for the kids. Also, keeping physically active burns off some of the “ants in your pants”, and helps with staying focused when in school.
Here’s a list of great “Brain Foods” – From the Seminar:
3. Wild Salmon and Tuna
4. Nuts and Seeds
7. Brown Rice
8. Olive Oil
A list of ENERGY BOOSTERS that are not just sugar was also given to the kids. They include:
Apples, Pears and Oranges
Green Leafy Vegetables
DARK Chocolate – Milk has WAY too much sugar.
Keeping young bodies full of healthy, nutritious and high-quality foods is of utmost importance. It helps them grow and gain strength, curb cravings for bad foods, and it makes a big difference in mental health. Coupling this kind of great eating with high levels of moderate-to-vigorous activity (60 minutes minimum daily) means long-lasting health for LIFE. It also helps create HABITS, which will continue with the child as he or she grows, allowing him or her to grow into a healthy and informed adult.
Our after-school programming aims to cover a lot of this kind of material in great detail while also getting children moving, moving and, did we mention… Moving!! The seminar, as presented last week, is an added bonus that schools can offer. That way, kids who cannot make it to the regular programming can learn about the basics. We also hope that having conversations with a few super fit and happy adults (cool ones, too! – we had one student take a look at us last week and say, “OH! You’re cool. That’s good.”) who talk with them, not AT them, will help motivate these students towards healthier choices.
So, great success with the seminar. There will be some changes made on our end so we can really grab continued attention and focus from the kids, but the basic material will stay the same. We hope to get into every school and talk to every grade, opening eyes about what foods belong in your body, and what mass-marketed garbage does NOT.
Until next time…
Early Movement Academy
This letter is an appeal to those within the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board who have the power to influence school policy.
My name is Monika Wawrow, and I am the President of Early Movement Academy Inc. (EMA). In a nutshell, EMA aspires to positively impact the lives of children and youth by reversing the alarming trend towards record high levels of sedentary behaviour, resulting in the unhealthiest and heaviest generation ever. We provide after-school programming centering around movement-based activities that are tailored to teach physical skills to specific age groups at varying developmental levels. This is done with a focus on movement skill development, play-based and sport-specific learning, as well as education about healthy lifestyle and nutritional choices.
Regular physical activity at a young age positively impacts social, emotional, physical and mental development. It also provides a strong base for a lifelong relationship with sport, greatly minimizing health and mental problems later in life. The benefits list goes on. With in-school physical activities dwindling, and children spending more and more time in front of screens, they are not experiencing the myriad positive effects that regular physical activity can provide.
The recently released “Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card” talks at length about after-school time (specifically 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm), and how it can be used in a positive way to change the aforementioned negative statistic. Children are spending their after-school hours indoors or in transit, not moving and missing out on a great time for expending energy in fun and active ways. Because many households have two parents at work, kids are shuttled home by buses or taken home by babysitters often finishing their days sitting in front of a TV/Computer/Video Game. If a physical activity program were available right after school in a safe a comfortable environment, children could participate and parents could feel at ease with regards to their safety.
EMA would like to use the familiar, safe and convenient space of school gyms to provide its cutting edge programming. Many parents in many communities have expressed interest, and a pilot program has even been launched at Mary Fix Catholic School in Mississauga to great success. However, if school board policy remains the same, the program cannot continue. There is a gap in the system that does not allow non not-for-profits to run programs on school property before 6:00 pm. With regards to halting a company like EMA from offering their services, this policy is essentially aiding in the continuation of the youth health crisis.
I would like to appeal to whomever can assist to please consider making a change to this policy. Allow certain companies, like EMA, to run their programming directly after school. Instead of blankly forbidding all non not-for-profits, have an application that allows companies to appeal for why they should be allowed into schools directly after school hours.
I would be happy to speak to any person wishing to know more about myself, Early Movement Academy Inc., and the services we provide. Anything I can do to aid in modifying policy so that programming like EMA can be offered to children in the convenience of their own schools without requiring extra transportation (shuttling kids back after 6:00 pm) would be my pleasure.