Fashion and fat

And the next gimmick?

To exercise or not? To exercise or not?
Fashion is a funny, gimmicky thing: tight trousers, baggy trousers; and whatever happened to the waistcoat? It's the same with 'important' things such as polar ice caps thickening and thinning at one and the same time. Traditionally the ideal approach would have been to ask an expert, alas that does not always solve the problem right now. Not unfashionable, but it's the nagging suspicion they don't really know either. So we come to obesity and children, it's one of the big subjects of the moment, almost fashionable.

These days anything to do with children is fraught with difficulty so we can only be, carefully, observant when out and about looking to see if today's child is too big. This may not be statistically reliable, do the obese resist being dragged around and refuse to go out? What to do? Well we could give the experts a second chance, who in turn could, in the absence of solutions to this problem, 'Europeanise' it. So welcome to the: European Congress on Obesity.

A meeting such as this in no way offers solutions to problem but it does make the participants and onlookers feel better, perhaps slimmer too. So the bottom line first -

“Research presented at the European Congress on Obesity today suggests that those children who were given more scheduled exercise at school compensated by doing less after hours. Those who did little at school were found to be more active at home”.

Disappointing as this may be to the Congress goers I find comfort here. It shows that children have innate sense and it also gives a knock to the sports theorem that: 'you can never have too much'. It would seem the targets of this diktat, the children, would have it otherwise. For a long time the sportists had it all their own way with more exercise prescribed for all manner of children; from the badly behaved to the under-performing with numerous categories in between, if in doubt, 'let there be more'.

Throughout the ages children have made up their own minds about sport and exercise; equal to this throughout have been teachers to tell children they will be deficient in some way unless they run further or faster, preferably both, with either a ball or stick, again preferably both, to hand. Society is full of happy, healthy and reasonably slim adults who have defied this demand.

Mind you I'm against selling off the playing fields. The open spaces are wonderful, it's a joy just to walk around them. They provide feelings of privacy and calmness. If I were a school Bursar or Head Teacher I'd be demolishing the recently built Computer Suite to create more open space. This cerebral aspect is important.

We are told -
Walking to school (rare)Walking to school (rare)
“environmental factors are less important as stimuli for physical activity in children, and exercise is more likely to be triggered by a form of central control in the brain similar to that which regulates appetite”.

And also - Alissa Frémeaux, a biostatistician at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in Plymouth, said that -

“this possible exercise regulator — which she described as like a thermostat for activity — should be considered in the battle with childhood obesity".

“These findings have implications for anti-obesity policies because they challenge the assumption that creating more opportunities for children to be active — by providing more playgrounds, sports facilities and more physical education time in schools — will mean more physical activity...”

“If health strategists want to alter the physical activity of children, it is important that they first understand what controls it.”

Is that last bit 'what controls it' deliberately impersonal? Should that be who controls it? Obviously parents do, or if the child is obese, perhaps don't.

Finally from this Congress -

“We believe the range of activity among children, from the slothful to the hyperactive, reflects not the range in environmental opportunities, but the range of individual activity set-points in the brains of children.”

So has this preoccupation, for some years now, with child obesity been a gimmick? Hard to know, but fools rush in etc, perhaps another Congress is required, one to get parents to feed and influence their children differently so to positively affect the child's brain. On the other hand maybe the answer is start formal schooling at 7 instead of trying to teach children to read before they can play, this could solve a few problems perhaps?

But back to child watching, do you live near a school? If so you will see a vast number of children arrive by car, walking is not an option it would seem. The caring parent would say it's all to do with safety. Now if a child cannot walk a mile through a suburb then there is no hope. The safety argument is the refuge of the weak and foolish, perhaps the sort of parent that would over-feed their child? Mind you there is a chance of an accident outside the schools as I've observed parents tend to drive erratically, the stress of having children I suppose? I understand there have been a few incidents so far and the responsibility lies with 'the motorist', more of the deliberately impersonal; it would seem we can't have the parents to blame can we?
Nissan electric car 1947Nissan electric car 1947
And so to another study, this one from researchers at the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. It contains the prediction that by 2050 a 90% obesity rate will be the norm. Now anyone used to expert predictions, the thickness of the polar ice caps for example, will have learnt to be wary. But this report also pushes aside the notion of more exercise as a solution, it is, we are told, all down to diet.

So what is our government doing? -

The Government is currently waiting for advice from the Food Standards Agency on how to use labels to alert shoppers to the unhealthy content of food.

But will it work or is it a gimmick? There are problems, any label scheme that falls foul of the EU legislation for example. So it would seem the only way out of this is to Europeanise it. We will all have to agree to another Congress, possibly many more, to find a way to give more experts more opportunity to tells us what they know; it's called prevarication.

Take the whizzo idea of electric cars that our Prime Minister recently gave us. It was reported that a Minister pointed to the plan to subsidise electric cars in five years time and said -

“That's a typical Gordon policy. He doesn't drive, he's detached from the real world, it won't make any difference to anyone. It's a gimmick, not a policy.”

I could not have put it better myself. But while our MPs have been pigging out on expenses the population have been, well pigging out waiting for the next gimmick.