Today the variety in our diets is very restricted compared to our prehistoric ancestors. We walk less than 0.3 miles a day on average and eat foods which contain high sugar and low fiber. This means high insulin response, high calorie intake and from a result of moving less, we burn less. The result of this unhealthy lifestyle is an obesity epidemic and extreme high cases of diabetes!(1)
Our extreme change in the health of the human race is not down to genetics but poor environmental conditions and evolution. Adults and parents with bad lifestyle habits are passing this down to result in each generation being progressively more and more unhealthy.
Children who are brought up in unhealthy environmental conditions are at risk of developing not only obesity, but hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea and depression. Later on in these children’s adult life they are then more prone to heart disease, cancer and osteoarthritis (2).
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years! (2) This is a global problem where we have had a 31% increase in child obesity from 2000-2010 (2). In 2010 43 million children were overweight or obese (3).
CrossFit Kids classes are designed change the cycle of poor behaviours by instilling the future generation of children with a positive association with exercise, a desire to be fit and a goal to live a long healthy life.
Getting kids into exercise is not just about their physical health but also their mental health. Resarch shows children can retain more knowledge when physically active. Exercise boosts brain power. (4). Exercise is also an awesome way to reduce stress levels in children which will positively impact learning(5).
Some of the most important elements in the CrossFit Kids programme include, Impact Loading and Vestibular Work
Research has debunked the myths than impact loading for children is damaging to their bones. The latest research shows the advantage of performing high impact, weight bearing activity can exert a positive influence on the bone health (6). The bones react and remodel according to the forces put on them, in this case strengthening them. Such forces can be applied through CrossFit Kids in the form of jumping and bounding which means without adding an external load these movements are very safe and can be self-scaled by each child (7).
The goal is CrossFit Kids is to lay a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. As they progress through life they would hopefully continue with their healthy lifestyle instilled in the classes.
You know when you spin round and round and you get super dizzy and disorientated. Thats because of your vestibular system.
The semicircle canal system in the inner ear has nerve efferent extending to various parts of the brain, including the limbic system, the hippocampus and the neocortex (8). It provided self-motion feedback by assessing acceleration and is the system used for balance. Vestibular dysfunctions can cause movement, learning and anxiety disorders. Tests have also been which have proved 73.3% of children performing well at school had a normally developed vestibular system where as only 32.6% of under performing children had a normally developed vestibular system (9). This proves the link between brain function and a healthy vestibular system.
In CrossFit Kids classes we include a number of movements such as log rolls, cartwheels, forward rolls and handstands which stimulate the development of the vestibular system at this crucial age.
Positive Changes in Brain Function
Not only in schools but at home the amount of physical activity children partake in has dramatically decreased in the passed decade. Instead of children playing outside they are glued to a TV screen or iPad for most of their lives. At school P.E Budgets are often cut which results in children doing less physical activity.
One of the largest single studies show a correlation between brain function and fitness. This study had more than 1.2 million subjects. The study assessed teenagers from 1950-1976 for physical and intellectual performance. The results indicated that aerobic fitness, but not muscle strength, is positively associated with scores on the various intellectual tests. Those who improved their fitness the most through their teenage years showed higher intelligence test scores than those whose fitness decreased from the age of fifteen (10).
So actually spending less time in the classroom and more time doing physical activity may not be so bad for intellectual development after all!
For a parent, establishing a healthy diet that supports life is a huge responsibility parents have. The way children are educated about nutrition will affect them for their whole lives.
Simply, consumption of varied, nutrient-rich foods will promote optimal development in a child. Physically and mentally.
As CrossFit says: ‘eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar’
If it comes in a packet with a 2 year best before date. Its going to be full of preservatives, additives and sodium. Not optimal for health.
The best thing you can do it teach your kids to make the best choices, and be a good role model. If they see you drinking Coke and eating ready meals and take out all the time. You are going to teach your child this a normal way to live. There is nothing healthy or normal about fizzy drinks and take out so don’t do it.
Bring up the next generation with a positive relationship with healthy food and exercise.
- Lieberman, D. The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Heath, and Disease. Pantheon (2013) ISBN-13:978-0307379412
- www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm (2015)
- de Onis, M. Blossner, M. and Borghi, E. Global prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children. American journal of clinical nutrition 92, 1257-1264 (2010)
- Ho,V.M., Lee,J.A. and Mertin, K. C. The cell biology of synaptic plasticity. Science 334,623-628 (2011)
- Stults-Kolehmainen, M.A and Bartholomew, J.B Phychological Stress Impairs Short-Term Muscular Recovery From Resistance Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc (2012)
- Ishikawa, S, Kim, Y, Kang, M. And Morgan, D. W. Effects of weight bearing Exercise on Bone Health in Girls. A Meta-Analysis. Sports Med (2013)
- Che, J. H, Liu, C, You, L and Simmons, C. A Boning up on Wolff’s Law: mechanical reglation of the cells that make and maintain bone. J Biomech 43, 108-118 (2010)
- Smith,P.F., Darlington, C.L Does vestibular damage cause cognitive dysfunction in humans? J Learn Disabil 22, 100-101 (1989)
- Franco, E. S. & Panhoca, I. Vestibular function in children underperforming at school. Braz J Otorhinolaryngol 74,815-825 (2008)
- Aberg, M.A.I et al. Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in long adults-hood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, 20906-20911 (2009)