Recreational habits can damage health

Let’s ignore the Iraq War, Britney Spears and the incessant urge to master the Metallica solo on Guitar Hero III for a little while. Let’s put down our cell phones, unplug our computers and pry ourselves away from the American Idol judges. Let’s forget all of these distractions and focus on a lifestyle that’s in desperate need of repair.

It seems like not too long ago American society had an epidemic on its hands – an epidemic of growing proportions, if you will. While the puns are as old as the news itself, the problem is still persistent: obesity.

Many parents point fingers at the food industry, which points fingers at the doctors, who, in turn, point fingers at the children who look up to their parents. The children (and parents) are still suffering from this “disease.” It’s incredible to even think that in some nations of the world, people are dying from starvation while others are dying from ‘super-sizing’ it a few too many times.

I’m not so concerned about the adults. There are plenty of ways to lose weight: Weight Watchers, salad bars and all of the healthy dieting sites available on the World Wide Web. No one needs to tell an adult “don’t eat that, it’s bad for you.” I hate to say it, but it’s time to admit that period of our lives is over.

It’s the youth of America that I’m vouching for. I’m watching my friends get married, get pregnant, have kids – not necessarily in that order. It seems I’m surrounded by these future thumb-suckers and I’m not happy about it. I decided long ago the world isn’t ready for my progeny, and my current social lifestyle has a lot to do with it. However, I know my chances of being called upon as babysitter is growing with each ultrasound. After that I’ll start getting attached to the child and will want to have an ankle-biter of my own and will have to deal with the whole parenting thing. It’s a wonder I even sleep at night anymore.

What were parents clamoring to get their kids this holiday season (apart from Hannah Montana tickets)? They bought entertainment, and not the cheap ball-and-bat variety, but hundreds of dollars’ worth to keep up with the Gateses. Xbox 360s, 62-inch HDTVs, Nintendo Wiis – just about anything to keep the kids plugged in and quiet for a while. Parents aren’t paying for the presents; they’re paying for high-tech babysitters. While parents are doing whatever it is parents do – my guess is working overtime to pay off holiday season debt – kids are glued to their games.

In a very roundabout way, this is the point I’m making: There are two elements in maintaining a healthy body. Diet is the obvious half of the answer with exercise being equally important, though often the ignored second part. Even though I got my fair share of McDonald’s and watched Mario grow from pixels to 3-D, I paid for it. I was signed up for soccer, swim team, baseball and gymnastics – which I could have really done without. I was lucky to see a television screen turned on if there was still daylight outside. When I feel like I’ve earned a little bit of downtime, I’ll kick back and play Halo 3. When I turn it on, I hear kids who sound like they haven’t entered middle school yet. They’ll be on for hours straight until 3 a.m.

With these hobbies, it’s no wonder we, as a nation, are getting fatter.

Kids are too sedentary. With hundreds of television channels to watch, a new ‘Game of the Year’ being released every month and the fastest Internet service to date, it’s hard to blame them. I can point fingers at the parents and yell at them all I want, but it won’t solve the problem. It’ll only start a playground finger-pointing war.

What I can do now is look at my own lifestyle and ask everyone else to do the same. I don’t necessarily need to focus on my diet. Instead, I could exercise more. I can join an intramural sports team or brave working out in the gym. The possibilities are endless and available.

If I start now and create a healthy lifestyle for myself, when it’s time for me to have kids, they will have a good example to follow on their own.

If my child-to-be grows up watching me run around a flag football field, they will probably be encouraged to play sports as well. Even if I am not that active as a parent, I can learn from my parents and just force the poor kids to walk on a balance beam over a foam pit.

Jerry Schutjer is a junior majoring in psychology.