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The Rise of Generation W(eak)

Move over millennials and Gen-Y'ers, the next generation is on its way. But don’t worry much, they can’t push too hard.

Every generation has its descriptor, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and now Gen Z, but I think we need to look at both the Z generation and the next generation, and let’s rename them Gen W(eak).

Many of you may already know this, but for some of you this may be new news but researchers have been warning us that this is the first generation where parents may outlive their kids. And now we have some more bad news to add to that, our kids are also getting heavier, but weaker.

Kids: Taller, and Bigger, but Weaker Too?

You would think that kids getting taller and bigger might not be such a bad thing. After all, taller is for the most part a preferred cross-cultural trait, and a bigger body should mean stronger, and more muscle, but recent research has shown us that the latter is not the case. While it’s been observed that our kids are becoming both taller and bigger, they are in fact also getting weaker.

There have been a number of studies on this topic, and I’m sure in the coming years they will continue, but let’s start with one of the most recent ones done by UK researchers and published this past September.

The British study looked at the strength differences in children today versus kids of the same age from 16 years ago. Interestingly they found that BMI (body mass index remained the same) even though the modern kids were taller and bigger, however, what they were not expecting was to find these same taller and bigger kids were weaker. They of course expected the opposite, believing that both power and strength would be increased due to the children’s physical structures.

What they found was in direct opposition to what they thought.

On test of grip strength kids were weaker by an average of 20% in muscular strength, and an average of 30% weaker in muscular endurance.

The reasons: Lack of exercise and more physical in-activity. Interestingly the study also found that losses of strength and general fitness are quickly accelerating, with each year between 2008 – 2014 strength lowering by an average of 1.6% per year. While muscular endurance is falling by an average of 4% each year after 2008.

In another study looking at children between 5 and 12 years old found that as children get older their levels of exercise drop by 40% between the ages of 5 and 12.

In the UK, only 23% of boys, and 20% of girls are reaching the national guidelines of activity.

Do not be fooled by this recent study however, we have known about this for some time, but we are not doing anything about it! You are the problem! I am the problem! Because we are doing nothing about it!

In fact we sit (literally) by as more and more schools cut activities like recess and PA activity’s even more today. A study published in child health journal Acta Paediatrica showed us that the number of sit-ups 10-year-olds could perform declined by 27.1%, arm strength fell by 26%, and grip strength by 7 per cent (FYI grip strength is a common marker we use in gym settings for longevity measures, so not a good start to life). The study also noted that in 1998 1 in every 20 children could not hold their own weight while hanging from a bar, in 2008, now 1 in every 10 could not manage it.

Time to Take a Really Good Look in the Mirror Canada

Canada has a lot of great aspects, but we do have 1 REALLY BIG national flaw, we hate to look in the mirror when it comes to our health. You rarely hear how we have an obesity rate of about 30%, and an overweight issue tipping above 40%. Nor how 1 in 2 Canadians will get cancer, nor how we are no better when it comes to kids fitness health. However, there may be 1 or 2 of you who remember just this past May, the non-profit Active Healthy Kids Canada scored our own Canadian kids with a D minus in physical activity. Like many news stories, it made the news for 1 day, then drifted (or should I say waddled) away as quickly as it came, no attention paid, not one s#it given.

To me this is a HUGE concern, so what are some solutions?

As a new dad myself, I can say I am quite upset by this, and I am definitely going to spend some effort on attacking this issue in a larger capacity. My own kid will start school in a couple years, and I want to make sure he stays as healthy as I can make it. To this point I am even considering a mix of Home school, Nature school and World Schooling, and on my Health By Design podcast, I am going to spend a big chunk of January discussing these topics with specialists from all these options.

But Where the Heck to Start?

To start with we can demand that schools reform their thoughts on cutting PA and recess and demanding more physical activity in school.

Second, we can look at what some other countries are doing and figure out ways to bring those ideas into our kids lives. In Japan, kids clean the schools and have very active daily lives. In many countries children walk and bike to school. My friend Alain Ngalani One Championship heavyweight fighter did a video recently where he spoke about life in Africa and spoke about how walking to school is just a way of daily life. While recently in New Zealand, schools were asked to promote “adventurous play” in children. Things like climbing trees, ball play games, and other simple “banned” kinds of play. And the result? A few more scrapes and bruises, but a wide increase in happiness, reports of immediate drops in both bullying, and vandalism. Could it be the kids are miserable and bored if they can’t play? Who would have thought! Sounds like the plot to the 1970 Christmas movis santa Cluase is Comin’ to Town, where the town master Burgermeister Meisterburger bans kids games, toys and playing.

No play! No fun! By order of the law!

Third, we can get our kids more involved in active hobbies like sports, adventure options, even exercise programs that they will need into later life. Many gym offer children’s programs, and there are a number of at home fitness options for kids. I know many CrossFit gyms offer CrossFit kids programs, and no its not Olympic lifting and your standard WODs. I also have seen a number of family Yoga and family gymnastic classes offered too.

Along this line from above, we as parents MUST set the example. Family activity outings, eating healthy foods, not keeping junk foods in the home, family yoga or walks are all great options. You mom and dad MUST be the example.

Fourth, we can take serious stock in the amount of screen time our kids get. Do the really need an iPad?

Finally, in a few schools in the USA there has also been a push to move to standing desks for children starting in Grade 1. This was brought on by the significant changes observed in children’s movement patters between K where they sit on the floor and play, to the Grade 1 focus on sitting to read, write and listen. Maybe think of using your company as a source to start to raise money for standing desks in your kids schools. Talk to the principal about whether they would consider allowing this, or better yet pressure them. Or, perhaps this, what about having some super fast “standing breaks” in classes. Every 30 minutes have the kids stand, perform a few exercises or stretches and resume classes. Simply, and effective, no cost involved.

I hope with this blog you start to really consider the ramifications of our doing nothing when it comes to the health or our kids, our nation and our world. Chronic lifestyle related diseases are spreading like a wild fire around the world, and it's now being proven to be trickling down to even the most basic levels.

Will you do something? Or will your read this blog, and move on to the next post and do nothing about it? The choice is yours. Make the right one.



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