There is no doubt that technology has improved the daily lives of almost everyone in the last twenty-five years. This improvement has come with an unexpected consequence. The children and teenagers of America are far less physically active than they used to be. Instead of playing sandlot baseball, kids today are playing World of Warcraft online. This trend actually began in the nineteen eighties with the dawn of the information age. And, this inactivity is detrimental to their overall health and welfare. Inactivity primarily leads to unchecked weight gain. This trend will eventually lead to morbid obesity. Studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, or NIH, have shown that obesity rates have risen approximately fifty percent since 1980.
The statistics are alarming because obesity has been scientifically linked to heart disease and early death. This was reported by the National Institute of Health in March of 2005. The same report also linked morbid obesity to the rising incidents of type two diabetes which in itself is life threatening.
Body Mass Index, or BMI, is the scientific measurement using height and weight data to measure obesity. On average, the optimal BMI is 24, and the NIH has determined that a BMI of 45 can remove up to twenty years from a person’s life.
This could very well be the first generation in recent memory that will fail to outlive their parents in the statistical sense. The implications of this are grave for all concerned. As the population ages, the increased possibility of more people dying younger would have an unprecedented social and economic impact. The consequences for an already overburdened health system would be immeasurable. The very bottom line is that the risk of morbid obesity must be brought under control. The best way to do that, is to institute mandatory physical activity beginning at a young age.
The benefits of being physically fit as opposed to being obese is an increase in life expectancy as well as quality of life. Obesity hasn’t proven to lower a person’s mental agility. But a french study shows that physical fitness has proven to increase it. This may prove increasingly crucial as teenagers grow into adulthood and old age. This study has determined that vascular fitness, attributed to a healthy diet and lifestyle, reduces the effects of Alzheimer disease in elderly patients.
The scientific evidence is clear. Inactivity as a lifestyle choice leads to increased weight gain and morbid obesity. This condition inexorably leads to health issues later in life. Society as a whole, and parents specifically, have a duty to introduce a more physical lifestyle early in the child’s life. Mandatory physical education throughout a child’s education coupled with fit testing could literally become a lifesaver for those at risk. It is critical that these children practice physical fitness up through and including the young adulthood stage so that healthy habits are ingrained. Their very health, mental abilities later in life, and quality of life depend on this.