By ANSHUMAN BHARGAVA :
A sedentary lifestyle, overdependence on technology and lack of space for outdoor recreation like sports are posing major challenges in the way of an active and healthy lifestyle.
We need to accept and recognise the problem, which many parents are reluctant to do. We often undermine the importance of a physically active lifestyle and load our children with facilities that only make life easy and minimise the need for the movement of the body, leading to laziness.
A RECENT study by an Australia-based non-profit organisation has found that physical activities in children have decreased worldwide and this is a serious cause of concern. It is thus not just an India-specific problem where lack of adequate public spaces curtails opportunities for outdoor activities but a globally declining habit among children to go out and engage in physical activities. A sedentary lifestyle, overdependence on technology and lack of space for outdoor recreation like sports are posing major challenges in the way of an active and healthy lifestyle. Such an unhealthy way of living is causing several social, mental, physical health, and cognitive problems in children as their natural propensities are being curtailed by artificial barriers.
India too, with its vast population of youngsters is grappling with the problem. Surprisingly, the survey has found that a highly technologically advanced nation like Japan had the healthiest lifestyle of children with ample scope for daily physical activity. Japan has a highly dense population and space is at a premium, yet they have not neglected this important aspect of life and devised ways so that due importance is given to physical activities – something which advanced nations like the US have not been able to do. This points to the fact that more than blaming our circumstances, what we need is proper planning and action that can change the situation. This has to come from us individuals as we cannot expect the Government to do everything for us by promulgating laws and issuing injunctions. These are things of ethics, sensibility, understanding, realisation, and awareness, which should come from inside and not imposed by an outside agent. If we are not ready to adopt and accept, no law can make us do so with any degree of efficiency. First, we need to accept and recognise the problem, which many parents are reluctant to do. We often undermine the importance of a physically active lifestyle and load our children with facilities that only make life easy and minimise the need for the movement of the body, leading to laziness.
It is only once we understand and locate the problem, that it will be easier to focus our attention on the dos and don’ts and act accordingly to remove the obstacles that come in the way of having a more scientific and healthy lifestyle. There are many easy ways to change the habit of our kids, and it needs parental awareness and involvement to do so. Unless parents show their concern and preferably lead by example, things won’t change. For this, they have to give time to their needs. They have to keep aside some spare time every day at the end of their work schedule, to spend with their children and talk to them. Only then they can closely observe and know what their kids do right or wrong and where tweaking is needed. Most parents are disconnected from their kids and spend more time on themselves than their children. Kids emulate their elders and thus those whose parents are themselves lethargic or are hooked to the TV or mobile phone are more likely to adopt such lazy habits. Parents, who are active in their daily chores which the children see around them, indirectly inspire and push them to be so and they acquire a lifelong good habit of physical activity.
There are always options if we scout for them. There may not be playgrounds around but there will always be a walkway where children can walk if prodded. If not sports, even walking is a golden habit that has to be inculcated early in life. If there are no recreation facilities at hand, at least children can sit with their parents and talk. That is way better than getting addicted to mobile games. If the school is near, the child must be encouraged to walk down rather than depending on being ferried by a bike or school van. If the maidservant is off duty, the child must be encouraged to take up the broom and do the cleaning up at home or assist the parents in doing so. This will bring in them a sense of responsibility. If the grocer is absent, the child must be encouraged to walk down and get the things from the nearby shop. These small acts of prudence can go a long way in ensuring a better future for our children. Schools too should lay stress on sports and mandatorily engage students in physical activities to keep them up and going. In many schools, children are asked to do the cleaning up act of the school premises and this is a wonderful way of engaging them productively and inculcating in them a sense of responsibility towards their school and society. By the way, Swami Vivekananda, himself a good sportsperson, had said a century back that it was more important to play football than reading the Geeta.
The crux of his saying came from what he had seen in the lethargic nature of our youth and their famished physique, which forced him therefore expressly to voice the need for greater physical activity in them to make them more able-bodied. This holds truer today as children are now falling prey to obesity due to lack of physical activities which pave the way for scores of other debilitating anomalies that remain lifelong burdens.