Call to Action for Parents of Overweight Kids: Sample the Delights of Hiking

The 23 May 2018 European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, organized by the European Association for the Study of Obesity revealed embarrassing facts concerning kids in Cyprus: 43% of boys and girls aged 6-9 years have a problem with excess weight; further, about half of these overweight children are obese! Stated simply, 1 in 2 of our kids experience serious health risks from a tender age.

This news calls for alarm. If you are a parent, you need to take corrective action now! Please don’t look right or left: the onus is on you. Children aged 6-9 years are still under your influence and you cannot hide behind the excuse that your child would not follow your guidance. And guidance is the secret of success. Kids respond well to parents who can lead by example, but will resist orders, because you cannot fool them. ‘If it is good for me, then why are you not following, mum?’ would leave you searching for words.

This applies equally to food, to time spent in front of a screen, to exercising. A parent who eats unhealthy because this is ‘customary’ while watching football on TV, a parent who spends hours every night browsing the internet, a parent who feels too tired or busy to get up from her couch, will have little success with instructions to their children to shape up. Kids have a good understanding of what is good and what is bad, and they don’t need your regular preaching about it.

Looked at positively, here lies a wonderful opportunity for you to (re)start on a new course, which will ensure a healthier life for you as well as your kids, and also will bring the family much closer together, doing the same things and communicating more. You may begin with a change back into the Mediterranean diet which we have abandoned, as was revealed at the European Congress by Dr. Joao Breda, from the World Health Organisation “The Mediterranean diet for the children in Mediterranean countries is gone, and we need to recover it”.

Dr. Breda came with further sad news “Physical inactivity is one of the issues that is more significant in the southern European countries”. Inevitably our sedentary life is closely related with trending activities, such as inordinate use of electronic games and the social media. A young client recently had immersed himself so deeply in it that he had given up gym exercising completely. For you as a parent, guiding your child to an active life may prove much more of a challenge than controlling what you eat and drink. Not only because what you do in front of a screen is ‘fun’, but also because you may feel that sports that suit your kid are beyond your own reach. Rightly so, only few and athletic parents can take up track sports or martial arts or play basketball any more. To this there are merely two exceptions, swimming and hiking. These are safe sports for persons of practically all ages, in general good health.

Hiking involves walking (neither jogging, nor running) in nature and contrary to swimming is not a widespread practice. Hiking through a forest or up and down a mountain can cleanse your mind, body, and soul and is an excellent way to burn between 400 – 700 calories per hour, depending on your size and the hike difficulty. Luckily, hiking is one of the easiest and least expensive sports to get involved in, and it can have great benefits for the whole family. It is non-competitive, thereby offering your kids a relaxing break from their daily results oriented school routine. And because all the family, even grandmas can participate, you will be amazed at the breadth and depth of conversations you will hold while you hike, leaving you at the end perhaps tired, yet feeling spiritually satiated and so close together.

Research has shown hiking to reduce levels of stress and anxiety in adults. Further research on children with hyperactivity has shown that when they are in a natural, outdoors environment their attention levels improve greatly. Finally the most astounding research results came from Professor David Strayer of the University of Kansas, whose experiments with people hiking revealed a 50% boost in their creativity.

To sample the delights of hiking, start with a google search. There are several responsible hiking clubs in the island, which will welcome you and your kids, on your journey to a better life.

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