Childhood obesity is on the rise in the United States, and is rightly considered by serious observers of public health trends to be a real epidemic. If you’re a parent, this is a threat that should not be ignored. As both the time and space devoted to outdoor play is whittled away by busy childhood schedules and rampant suburban sprawl, physical education in public schools is losing ground along with the arts and other less vital classes. This is leaving American children fat, sick and headed for years of health problems.
Fortunately, one of childhood’s favorite pastimes — swimming — is also an effective measure against obesity for those children fortunate enough to have access to a pool.
While not a virus or other communicable disease, obesity is as detrimental to health and life quality as any other sickness. Being overweight affects a great deal more than one’s appearance. While the social and psychological consequences of obesity are significant, the unseen damage done to the heart and other organs is physical, and very real.
Along with proper eating habits, physical activity, like swimming, can spare your child a great deal of unnecessary suffering. Don’t fall for the comforting but dangerous notion that obesity is just another personal trait, something as integral to who your child is as their curiosity or the color of their eyes. No parent would consider bronchitis or strep throat an indication of “who” their child is. Obesity is as harmful as either of these.
Fortunately, the “cure” can be a lot of fun! Swimming and other forms of water play are renowned for their ability to improve physical fitness in one of the safest possible ways, with little likelihood of injury. Swimming and watersports are low-to-no impact, which is especially beneficial for someone who is obese or heading towards obesity, as the extra weight can stress the spine and joints during land-based activities.
Whether its structured forms of water sports, like swimming laps, or free play with the variety of pool games available, pool exercise is fun and engaging— especially for children. Pool care stores feature a wide range of pool toys and equipment to suit any age group or desired level of structure.
If you have a pool, take advantage! Limit the time your children spend in front of televisions and interacting with other electronic devices. Encourage as much time in the water as possible, provided proper supervision and safety is observed, and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Have the means, but don’t yet have the pool? The gift of a pool might be among the greatest you can give to your children. Not only will it be a fount of good times and memories, it can be the difference between a healthy lifestyle and the painful consequences of a sedentary childhood.