Our ancestors have been on the planet for 6 million years. The modern form of humans have been around for about 200,000 years. Our ‘Hunter-Gatherer” ancestors lived a very different life to us.
They would roam around searching for food and hunting prey. Sporadic food sources meant fasting & feasting. When they encountered their prey they’d have to move fast and be very strong. Research shows us they liked ‘chilling out’ in their family groups. Cleaning, preening and playing.
Evolutionarily, 200,000 years is a blink of the eye. We haven’t really changed from those ancestors, yet our lives and especially our activity levels have.
From the analysis of ancestor remains we know these guys were taller, leaner, healthier, lived longer (unless mauled by an animal) and didn’t have our diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that Childhood Obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st Century.
In a 2014/15 WHO survey of 1 million children statistics show that 19.1% of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight. Of children in Reception (aged 4-5), 9.1% were obese and another 12.8% were overweight. This means a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds were overweight or obese.
Obesity can lead to Type 2 diabetes, Asthma, Heart Disease, self-esteem & anxiety issues, and Musculoskeletal problems (damage to knees, hips, and back).
The solution is Play!
Playing has so many benefits. Allow your children to try different types of play as this will lead to what is called General Physical Preparedness (GPP). GPP builds motor coordination and adaptability, even strength and muscle tone, core stability, lung heart and joint strength, it develops the tactical mind, and a social brain, improving confidence, self-esteem and social skills.
We’ve all seen them, and probably know them. In fact you might be one of them? Children’s activity should be about: safety, enjoyment & learning. I’m a very positive guy, but the likelihood of my child being the next sporting prodigy is slim. I let them decide what and how to play as it will be done out of enjoyment and passion, not obligation.
Varied activity is key to creating well-balanced physical fitness & health. Specificity is the opposite to this. Over emphasising a certain sport or activity without GPP can lead to excessive repetition of that skill or activity. Repetitive strain or overloading can lead to injury and long term damage, sometimes severe.
So, How do we play?
Put down the tablet, phone or remote and encourage some family playtime. It doesn’t have to cost the earth either. Put some music on and dance! Go outside and ask your kids where they want to go? Make it an adventure and see where it takes you. Encourage their imagination by asking them what the adventure they are going on is in aid of. Grab a ball, and go to the local park with your children, but don’t simply play footy, invent different rules and objectives. Get the kids to invent and game.
If you want a day out, Sefton has all manner of opportunities from parks with swings and slides to paid attractions.
Our children do have the most amazing imaginations, so we just have to set it free. Go and play with them, and their friends. Help and encourage them to create new games. Most of all have some fun, and do it regularly.
Article written by George Dixon-Spain, Head Coach at Crossfit ASG, Southport, www.crossfitasg.co.uk