Um, yikes

I happened across an article this morning about children’s exercise equipment – for the 4 to 11 year old set. It’s supposed to be a solution for the international child obesity epidemic.

It didn’t do much to improve my mood. Busy parents?? Honestly, I know busy. But I solemnly swear any child entrusted to me will not have to resort to a stationary bike in front of a television.

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14 responses to “Um, yikes

  1. Most ridiculous thing ever! Not to mention, I don’t know many toddlers who would use such a thing for more than about 2 minutes anyway, and then be off to the next thing. They will soon realize the bike isn’t really taking them anywhere fun, and unlike gerbils, they will know they can just get off! Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    Of course the pic would have to be boy/girl twins too. Just to add to my ire.

  2. I didn’t look at the picture, and after what Lori said, I’m not planning to. But I get the gist and I’m amazed that anyone would think this was a good idea.

  3. Oiy, I’m sorry Lori and I think Niobe. I didn’t even read the caption on the photo.

  4. Yes, that was me. I didn’t even realize that I forgot to type in my name.

  5. As I just emailed you- no apologies necessary! Twins, babies etc… all a reality of life that we have to figure out a way to confront without being constantly undone.

    I’m glad the article was actually pretty skeptical of the whole idea. I’m also glad they pointed out that exercise for children is supposed to come in the form of spontaneous, self-motivated FUN!!

  6. Yes, it is called “play”. Active, hopefully mostly, outside, playful enjoyment exploring their environment and socializing at the same time. I’d have them on real tricycles or bicycles with their parents beside them if I could.

  7. I’m gonna slightly dissent. I think in the right situations, some equipment *could* be beneficial. I get that ideally kids should have spontaneous activities outside, at the gym, in the backyard, etc. Ideally just doesn’t always work everywhere. For instance, I don’t have a backyard. I can’t send my older son to the park by himself. Ever. I would be arrested. When my twins need to nap, Ace just lolls around watching TV. Having one of those mini-trampolines in the apartment might be good for him to jump around on for 15 minutes.

    Also, schools around here have inadequate amounts of gym and recess. Add the over-burden of todays first-grade homework and it’s hard to fit in the physical balance that *needs* to be there. My kids aren’t obese or even fat, so I don’t have to do this, but I have thought about it before reading the article.

    If you need to slam me, fine, just try to do it nicely.

  8. You can disagree Thrice! I still don’t like the idea. The mini-trampoline I’m not against – my niece has one and loves it. But the treadmills and bikes I am. I taught kindergarten for two years (abroad I could never handle American schools) – I know kids can burn energy in much more “free” ways than tied to a machine with a complimentary DVD even in small spaces. It’s miserable enough as an adult needing to do that.

    The first grade homework you mention, now THAT’S a problem. The lack of time allotted for physical activity in school, that’s also a problem. I’d rather we address our ridiculously poor ideas about what elementary age students need from schools than put the kids on a machine. As well as, and here people might slam me, our completely inaccurate common wisdom about where threats to children lie – not with strangers in the park (that’s not an attack on you Thrice – of course you can’t send Ace alone).

  9. I think that we all agree that first-grade homework and lack of time allotment for physical activity is a problem, but the problem is there and it’s not going to change for Ace. So the question is how do I work with the problem? I want Ace to take after school activities, like floor hockey, softball and basket ball. Hank wants Ace to take painting, chess and violin, which are great things to take. However, I think that Yeshivas, in general, because of their need to pack in a double course study of Hebrew and English, give up on physical activity way to fast. I strongly believe in the balance of physical and mental, because physical not only fights obesity, but it fights depression, adds to self-esteem, alertness, etc.

    I’m not saying that the machines are an answer. I’m just saying that in some situations, where say, paying $600 for one, 45-minute gym class for the fall season isn’t possible, that the putting the obese kid on a treadmill, instead of the couch, for his daily hour allotment of TV isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  10. Funny thing is I kind of agree with both of you. I think the best thing is to let a kid run around and spontaneously play, and I’d love to address the issue of school activity levels, but I also know many many kids who live in condos and apartments and have absolutely no chance of getting to run around alone because they are in the downtown core and the traffic is a problem, never mind the creepy stranger issue. I have to wonder if this equipment could help them a little?

    I’ve definitely thought about getting a treadmill or bike for my kids to use and generate electricity to operate their TV or Wii game. Or just generate electricity to feed back into the grid and earn me money for my hydro bill.

    (Kidding, kidding) (Sort of)

  11. Baby Girl and I came up with another indoor exercise option today, and it was completely free and fun. Our main floor is circular and she decided that all of her toy animals needed some time to run. She would designate which animal I was to hold, and then she picked another, and we ran laps around the house while carrying our animals. After a few loops around, she would stop and announce that it was time to switch animals and we would repeat the whole thing with new animals. For some reason she found this enormously entertaining, and I counted it as my morning jog!

  12. That’s funny Aurelia. I actually agree with both of us too.

    Thing is, the children most threatened by obesity in the States at least are poorer children. Are they going to have access to the treadmills and bikes? I’m betting they’ll end up fancy toys for children with access to more already. I would certainly agree that it’s better for children to be on a bike than a couch if they’re going to spend that hour watching television.

    Why are they watching television though? I’m not just being an idealogue here. I know parents are busy and that many face physical challenges and that would make the ideal scene described by Lori difficult – although for fewer parents than I think would claim it as such. Some people live in small spaces in cities, and we’ve become convinced that the world outside our homes is dangerous. Rationally we have to know, though, that the opposite is true. That our homes and the people we know are far greater of a threat. That our children aren’t really obese because we’re actually too busy to provide them with physical activity.

    Why is the solution to our problems created by hyper-commodification more commodification? Why not an answer that relies on more cooperation & community?

    I don’t know answers, and I won’t attack individual parents for their attempts to meet their own challenges, but for me these kinds of questions are becoming more and more central to how we live.

  13. Ooops… I hope I didn’t paint some sort of June Cleaver picture that sounds too good to be true. I know I am fortunate to have a home with a certain amount of space, and time to spend with my daughter. I also know those kinds of scenes might feel like an impossibility to some parents. And believe me, it doesn’t play out that way every single day in my house either.

    My point was more that when we give kids the room to engage their imaginations, and tap into their own energy, they can be darn creative. I think Baby Girl knew she was in need of some physical activity after a fairly lazy morning. She invented this game all on her own, and enlisted my participation. To me, child-sized exercise equipment comes out of an adult way of looking at the world, imposed upon children. Adults understand the value of health and fitness, and so they can force themselves onto otherwise monotonous pieces of equipment to achieve that goal. Kids don’t inherently understand things as adults do, and don’t view the world that way. That is why I simply question whether kids would even use this kind of equipment in the first place without some sort of reward/punishment system- which opens a whole other can of worms.

  14. I think that we are all in agreement. But B. I think that most parents let their kids get in at least an hour of TV a day. I’m not saying it’s right, but it does come in handy. If I need to take a shower. If I need to make dinner. If I need to make a phone call without screaming. If I need to zone out. Whatever, there are tons of excuses. I would imagine it is that much harder for a women with less means.

    I agree with you that we need more cooperation and community. Yet, the opposite is true. It continues to deteriorate. There is less of a family connection. I have no idea who some of my neighbors are on my floor, let alone my building.

    I think the what-about-me syndrome takes over, people are too worried about taking care of themselves. But eventually, the trickle of people that have a raw deal, become more and more, and eventually it has to hit you or someone you love. I try to do my part by inviting my elderly-all-her-life-mentally-neighbor over for every Shabbat dinner, even though Hank and Ace protest bitterly. I should do more to help the community, and my world. I feel terribly guilty about it.

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