A while back, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine studied both Old Order Amish children and non-Amish white children from nearby areas, learning that:
Amish children were twice as physically active, spending 34 more minutes a day in light physical activity, plus 53 more minutes a day in moderate to vigorous physical activity. Higher activity levels were also correlated to lower body mass indexes, a commonly used obesity measure.
This particular faith community is well-known for shunning electronic accessories such as TV, electronic games, and computers. The kids do farm chores, play outdoors, and walk to and from school. Motorized vehicles are shunned.
The bad news is that by the time they grow up, Amish people are generally about as obese as their non-Amish counterparts — but — the good news is, they only develop half as much type 2 diabetes. The risk factor there is not in the obesity itself, but in the number of years the patient has spent being an obese adult.
Everything in moderation — including control
Authoritarian parenting has been a recent topic, and usually it has unhappy results. Yet it cannot be said that all control is bad. Some is necessary. Here is a very literal example of how it might be the lesser of two evils.
When a child is able to walk, it is time to retire the stroller. A child needs the practice in walking, and it burns calories, obviating the accumulation of fat. But some parents think only of their own convenience. “I just don’t want to walk that slow. The stroller has places to stash a diaper bag and bottles and all the other paraphernalia. With the kid strapped in and on wheels, I can talk on the phone. He’s safe in there, I know where he is.”
In other words, it’s a control issue. The parent wants to be in charge of the speed of travel, and of the capacity to bring along a bunch of stuff that may not even be necessary. The parent wants to control the child’s range without needing to actively monitor the situation. The arrangement is not really healthy for anyone.
Here is the plan
Make a change, but ease into it. Take the stroller along, but let the little child walk, as slowly as she wants. Using one hand to manage the stroller and the other to hold the child’s hand. Forget about the phone, and pay attention to what is going on. As Ram Dass famously said, “Be Here Now.” Do that until one of you can no longer tolerate it, and then put the kid in the stroller. Extend the walking portion of the trip a little farther each day.
Eventually, leave the stroller at home and carry the gear in a backpack or tote bag. The child could even carry some of her own essential belongings, in a cute little backpack with a leash attached. For the sake of physical activity and obesity prevention, consider this form of benevolent control, even though it might attract criticism. For the less bold, there is a compromise measure — a pair of soft wrist cuffs, one for the parent and one for the the child, joined by a curly cord.
If a sanctimonious stranger says, “You’re treating your child like an animal,” you can come back with, “No, what you mean is that most dogs are treated like children should be — permitted to move under their own steam, but not allowed to get in dangerous trouble. Why do you have a problem with that?”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Amish Avoid Obesity, Diabetes Through Activity,” EverydayHealth.com, 10/23/12
Source: “The Parenting of Fat: 10 Ways You are Making Your Kids Overweight,” Mamiverse.com, 10/09/14
Photo credit (left to right): Alex Thomson,Uma Ceawlin on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA