It’s thought that the next generation, our children and teenagers, will be the first who will not live longer than the previous generation. The American lifestyle is contributing to unhealthy kids and teens due to a lack of emphasis on healthy activity and eating habits.
A big part of diabetes education and support is to promote healthy eating and a physically active lifestyle. The message we provide to a person with diabetes is the same that all Americans should hear. One reason for an adult to improve lifestyle behaviors is to help the next generation. I think part of our message to adults, without placing blame, should be to do it for our children. If we practice healthy eating and being physically active, we can help the next generation to develop great habits that promote a longer, healthier life. I’ve recently made a few observations that made me think about how we can impact this problem:
- Running past the high school bus stop two blocks from my house, seeing two cars with two teenagers inside with a parent that drove them to the bus stop. I am in a safe, suburban neighborhood. Perhaps the parents could promote a healthy behavior by encouraging their teen to walk to the bus stop.
- A child who is about 10 years old and is overweight in a home improvement store checkout lane asks his parent for a bag of Doritos. The parent says no, and then yes. The child gets and eats the snack chips before getting to the register.
- A child of about five years old walking with his mom between two athletic fields at a lacrosse tournament. I hear the mom say, “No, you can walk.” To her friend: “This is the problem with the kids today. They get rides everywhere.” Me to myself: “Yeah!” Within seconds, a golf cart pulls up and offers a ride, which the young boy takes instantly for the 30-meter walk to the next field.
If we practice healthy eating and being physically active, we can help the next generation to develop great habits that promote a longer, healthier life.
But it’s not all bad:
- At the same lacrosse tournament, another boy of about the same age ran onto the field by himself to shoot into the goal every time there was a time out or break in the game. He chose to be active, likely because activity had been encouraged in the home.
- Great looking apples and bananas next to the counter at the drugstore near my home giving an option beyond candy and chips.
- My nephew’s lacrosse team is a city team that encourages inner city teens to join. I loved seeing some of the boys out there with a lacrosse stick in their hands, running around and playing great…boys that had not held a lacrosse stick prior to a few months ago.
We have so many challenges and roadblocks to healthy living. It is much easier to eat large quantities of high-calorie foods and to sit at televisions and other electronic devices.
When we work with a person with or at risk for diabetes, we can encourage them to lead healthy lifestyles and try to help those around them. Going for walks or playing with kids, encouraging involvement in activities and working on having healthy food choices available can be part of our message for children and teenagers to develop better habits to take into adulthood. Let’s include that as part of the positive, supportive message in diabetes self-management training and support. Let’s do it for our children.
About the Author
Karen Kemmis is a physical therapist and certified diabetes educator, and also holds certifications in Pilates for rehabilitation and exercise for aging adults. She is based out of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and splits her time between a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate, an outpatient rehabilitation department, and a PT program where she is an adjunct professor.
View Bio & Previous Posts