Eat your vegetables and do your circuit workout, kids

BlogHer Original Post

Tonight my family enjoyed bowling, tennis and boxing together... on our new Wii. It was great fun, and by the last knockout (my daughter took down some bearded fellow in under a minute; pent-up anger, much?) both kids were actually perspiring.

Not bad for a video game system, I suppose. I can see now what all the hype has been about.

The thing is, we also bike and swim and walk and bowl (in a real alley, with real balls) as a family. Even now that we have the Wii, I certainly don't think it's any substitute for other exercise. And one of my very favorite phrases of parenthood is, "Go play outside." When we can all play outside together, so much the better. But I have no problem sending the kids out to do the things that kids do, even (imagine!) without my hovering guidance.

But you know the story -- American children are obese. Kids sit in front of computers or televisions. It's no longer "safe" for kids to play outside like it was "in the olden days." (I don't happen to agree with that philosophy, actually, but let's not get into that.) Parents are fretting about how to get their kids up and active. The Wii is being lauded as a step up from sit-on-the-couch video games, sure, but what about parents who need something more?

You tell your kids to go outside and play, of course.

Ahahahahahaha! Oh, just kidding. Why would you do that? Obviously, the solution is to find one of the many health clubs catering to children:

It may sound like a grown up routine, but many parents are enrolling their children in fitness centers or buying child-sized equipment for a workout more grueling than ballet or Little League but cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.

Child-sized treadmills! My mind boggles.

And mine isn't the only one. I'm relieved to see that other parents are as disturbed by this news as I am; Erika at MotherTalkers says:

The thought of my almost 4-year-old daughter lifting tiny weights or walking on a treadmill makes me think of a hamster on a wheel. I guess I feel like children, especially those under 10 years old, should be having honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned fun...and speaking as a dedicated gym-goer, pounding out miles on a treadmill? Not so fun.

And FitSugar makes a very salient point with this:

While I'm all for kids being healthy and learning to love exercise early on in life, I'm not sure this is the way to approach this issue. My girls like playing school, ballet performance and soccer, but they never play "let's go to the gym." What happened to kids biking or playing a lively game of tag? And are team sports just not cool anymore? I'm worried that this focus on fitness will take the fun out of exercise, so kids will eventually shy away from it.

Hangry Pants is worried about the focus, here:

I think it’s good for kids to be active, but of course, I hope the focus is on being healthy and strong, not losing weight and being skinny.

(Oh, thank goodness we don't live in a society where the ultimate emphasis is on being skinny! Oh... wait....)

But perhaps the best look at the other side of the coin is KaliMyst's recollections of her daughters' free-range childhood, concluding:

[T]hey got to play outside, get familiar with their environment use their creativity, and stay in shape. It drove me nuts that others labeled me as a bad parent, because I didn't control what they did 24/7 Kids need time to be just kids. To not have anyone telling them what to do, and to be able to just lie in the grass and watch the clouds in the sky.

Call me crazy, but that sounds a lot more like childhood than kiddie-sized ellipticals. Heck, even a little Wii boxing in the living room seems preferable, to me. But what do I know? I'm just some woman who lets her kids play outside.

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir also blogs about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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