Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Parks: An Antidote to Childhood Obesity

Like father, like son.

That’s why it shouldn’t be any surprise that childhood obesity is a growing health crisis in Memphis.

After all, we already knew about the parents. Three years ago, Men’s Health and Self ranked Memphis as the nation’s unhealthiest city. In its most recent rankings, Men’s Health ranked Memphis as the fifth unhealthiest city for men in its ranking of 101 cities and only five points from the bottom. Memphis received a grade of D in fitness, F in environment and F in health.

But there’s more. Men’s Fitness, in its 2005 rankings, said Memphis is the fourth fattest city in the U.S. and gave the region a grade of D for parks and recreation, and Medical News Today wrote that Memphis is in the bottom 10 cities for utilitarian walking or biking.

Meanwhile, the rate of obesity in the eight-county metro area is higher than both state and national rates – 27.5 percent compared to 24.5 for Tennessee and 22.2 for the U.S.

In such a context, the real marvel would be if Memphis’ children weren’t obese.

It’s been reported that childhood obesity in our city is at an all-time high and climbing. If current trends continue, today’s youth will be the first generation in the country’s history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. And all for the lack of a little exercise.

But exercise can bring more than physical health. Inactive people are twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression as active people. That’s why the statistics in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of Memphis City Schools seem more than coincidence: 27.4 percent of students reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness, 41 percent reported insufficient levels of exercise and 66 percent said they watch more than three hours of television on an average school day.

It is an indication of the “nature-deficit disorder” cited as a growing problem for today’s urban youth. In a world of fast food and video games, exercise and outdoor play are becoming quaint activities of an Ozzie and Harriet era. In his book, “Last Child in the Woods,” Richard Louv points to the subliminal message we send with ads like the one that shows an SUV driving through incredibly beautiful mountain scenery, while two children in the back watch a movie on a flip-down screen.

So, where does Memphis start to fight childhood obesity? At the most logical place – parkland.

The public wants better parks and a “green strategy” for the city could become a competitive advantage in attracting new jobs and economic growth. Not to mention that it’s a great strategy for healthier residents.

Now, Memphis occupies the lower rungs of major cities in the average acres of parkland per 1,000 people – 16.1 acres per 1,000. Compare that to the rates of Austin – 35.4 acres per 1,000; Phoenix – 26.9 acres per 1,000; and Louisville – 20.4 acres per 1,000.

Couple that fact with Memphis’ underfunding of park services, and obesity seems the natural outcome. A recent review of 53 cities reported that Memphis spends only $25 on parks per resident of the city. If it weren’t for Toledo’s $23 per resident, we would have hit bottom. (Seattle is tops with $145.)

Memphis’ lack of investment in parks is being played out in growing complaints about the maintenance and condition of neighborhood parks. In last year’s Memphis Poll, only 69 percent of Memphians had positive perceptions about their neighborhood parks, compared to 86 percent only three years earlier. The poll noted that the division of Park Services blamed the problems to the lower priority of the parks in city budgets.

Few things prove as clearly that cities are ecosystems, where every factor affects all others. Here, a direct line runs between too few parks and too little money spent on them to unhealthiness that in turn drives up health care costs and taxes.

It seems a simple equation – spend now for parks or spend more later for medical care.

So, next time, there is a national town hall meeting on childhood obesity in Memphis, let’s talk about the cause – the need for more and better parks – and not just the symptom – more overweight children.


David Skul said...

Physical fitness and Work out Forestall Disease

Fitness and Exercise Forestall disease. That is a proven fact, and yet more Americans than ever so are suffering from obesity and type two diabetes are regarded an epidemic in the United Sates of America. If you are heavy, and especially if you are obese, or if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then take heed to your doctor and start a steady Fitness and Exercise program. You will be happy you did.

One of the rewards of Physical fitness and Exercise, as any physician will tell you, it that Fitness and Exercise aid moderate blood sugar. A diabetic who takes medication every day may find that less medicine is needed with a regular Fitness and Exercise plan. Many diabetics who stay with Physical fitness and Work out software online find that they are able to quit the medicine and get their diabetes under moderate in a entirely instinctive manner.

Triglycerides are also too high for most Americans. High triglycerides are associated to heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. A wonderful instinctive manner to cut back your level of triglycerides is to simply start and stick with a Fitness and Work out plan, while eating a reasonable diet. Triglycerides at too high a level are also linked to high blood sugar, and it is most common for diabetics to have high triglyceride levels. Therefore, in this case Fitness and Exercise can take charge of two likely wellness hazards at the equivalent time.

Many people have marveled at the manner being over weight has turn into an American manner of living, and wondered what stimulated it. Many steer to sedentary lifestyles, doing work in front of computers, and watching too much television. In addition, Several Americans eat diets high in fat and carbohydrates. Whatever the root causes Physical fitness and Exercise can be a major part of the cure for this problem. Engaging in physical conduct, increasing the heart pace, and just getting active can aid a person loose weight, moderate triglyceride levels and better diabetes and should not be ignored. Parents should restrict time spent by children with video games or viewing television and promote them to engage in Physical fitness and Exercise the way youngsters in preceding generations have, taking on games like baseball, basketball and skip rope children who learn the benefits of Fitness and Work out at an early age will grow into grownups, who relish Fitness and Exercise, lead healthier lifestyles and tend to live longer, healthier and apparently more euphoric lifetimes.

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