Editor’s Note: This week, I’ve invited guest blogger Stacy Walters (@fittogarden) to discuss gardening and childhood wellness in light of the new Let’s Move initiative. Walters’ complete bio follows the post. Enjoy and feel welcome to add your comments!
It’s official; a staggering one out of three children in America is identified as obese or overweight. For the first time in American history, children may be facing a shorter lifespan expectancy than their parents. Our nation’s culture of convenience has plagued the adult population with unhealthy habits, and is now infecting our children. The Rx? Nutrient-dense fresh food + exercise and outdoor recreation = medicine. Let’s figure out how to get there.
The first obstacle is nutrient deficiencies.
Families are busy, kids are overscheduled, and parents are constantly on the go. There is no time to plan meals, scurry to the grocery store, and prepare fresh food. Eating is just another item on the checklist. It is more convenient to hit the drive-through or reach for readily available processed foods. Urban communities often face an even bigger challenge due to a rise in food deserts. Grocery stores cannot survive in urban neighborhoods. Backyard vegetable gardening has vanished and our children cannot even identify common fruits and vegetables.
The second obstacle is sedentary indoor routines.
Advanced technology has changed the way we move our bodies, interact with nature, and function overall. Author Richard Louve pinpointed this epidemic when he coined the term “nature-deficit disorder”. Children spend the majority of their time indoors in front of the television, surfing the web, and playing video games. There is minimal genuine outdoor play and recreation.
At long last, there is a national action plan demanding attention.
First lady Michelle Obama has pledged to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity with the recent kickoff of the Let’s Move campaign and the 2009 White House Organic Garden project. These two crusades combined serve as the desperately needed vehicle necessary to acknowledge and address the issue. Thanks to White House Organic Garden bang, edible gardens are now identified as the new “trend”. It certainly is a disturbing sign of the times when victory gardening is considered trendy, but it’s a welcomed spotlight nonetheless.
I’m convinced we can take this one step further. Gardening ultimately addresses every aspect of the epidemic discussed thus far. It’s inexpensive and easy, we can grow our own organic nutrient-dense food, we can connect with nature, and it’s great exercise. It’s time to cultivate a change, let’s get growing!
The White House efforts alone will not be enough. Each of us can make a local impact by introducing children to the profound physical, nutritional, mental, social, and environmental benefits of gardening with these three tips.
1. Enjoy the Physical Benefits
- Lawn and garden care facilitates weight loss*
- Gardening provides an adequate and challenging workout, but is not as stressful on the body as other exercise options, like jogging or aerobics.
- Gardening could well be viewed as cross-training for all fitness levels
2. Enjoy nature; discuss environmental stewardship and the nutritional benefits of gardening.
3. Get Active in School and Community Gardens
- Volunteer locally.
- Have fun!
- Children can’t wait to get their hands dirty. Be sure to include a gardening warm-up and cool-down.
- Consider incorporating a seed-spreader race or garden obstacle course challenge.
The fight against childhood obesity can begin in your own backyard.
Commit to teaching the children where salad comes from.
*Based on a 180-pound person according to the National Gardening Magazine.
References: “Here’s to Your Health”, National Gardening Association (2004).
Bio: Stacy Walters is the author of OutdoorLivingWithStacy.com. The lifestyle blog highlights fitness, gardening, and green living as well as her Fit to Garden™ program. She also serves as a contributing editor on thegreengirls.com. Stacy, a Registered Kinesiotherapist, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach, and Master Gardener, holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from the University of Toledo.