So the end of school term has arrived and a long hot August beckons. Well OK, hot if you’re heading somewhere suitably exotic.
Either way, the closing of school gates in July is a time of delight for nearly all children, as it has been since the first school door opened. Which of us adults could ever forget that thrill of last day of school term? Surely, only Christmas morning could surpass waking up on the first day of summer holidays.
Much else around has changed though, for today’s pupils. For earlier generations, holiday escapes were once largely confined to UK resorts, and outdoor play to local streets and fields. The British deckchair has now been largely replaced by the Mediterranean sun-lounger. Streets around the home once the playground of endless improvised games, have become the parkway for our cars, as sedentary travel, indoor entertainment and cheap fast food dining predominate.
Results and research now tells us that over 30% of children are classed as either overweight or obese. In fact overweight and obesity in adults by 2034 (which means today’s kids) is predicted to reach 70%. Direct costs to the NHS have risen an estimated twelvefold since 1996.
Yet somehow, something feels slightly at odds here, as we celebrate four years since the fantastic London Olympics and head to Rio.
In 1996, Sir Steve Redgrave won Britain’s only gold medal at the Atlanta games. Athletic medals were becoming rare, we were more likely to be awarded a buoyancy aid than an Olympic swimming bronze and fall off our bikes on the way to receiving it.
This Olympic summer we eagerly expect Jessica, Mo, our rowers, cyclists, even now our swimmers to repeat the glories of four years ago and new faces bring home more medals. From a country in 1996 that couldn’t possibly have foreseen a Wimbledon men’s tennis champion or a Tour de France winner, here in 2016 are Andy Murray and Chris Frome winning them again.
Fat man of Europe? Well somewhere, something is working. So where’s the missing link between our predicted overweight kids and our healthy Olympic and sporting champions of the next two decades? Do you suppose it could be us?
Over the next 20 years who or what will determine whether today’s toddlers will be tomorrow's overweight junk-food or healthy sporting medalists? We might just start by looking in the mirror. As parents, grandparents, teachers, community participants and facility providers, we help stimulate their dreams. Our support can be as simple as the personal examples we set, the diet, interests and physical activities we encourage.
We may be part of the problem, but we are very definitely part of the solution. Great oaks from little acorns grow. Fed by healthy water, of course. Good luck to all our athletes in Rio. Enjoy your summer everyone- and don’t forget to carry your water bottle.