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Physical Activity - Health From Gestation to the Grave

I almost started this post with “from the cradle to the grave,” but then I thought about the principle we know from the first 1000 days that maternal well-being affects the infant’s life course.  The first 1000 days are mentioned in my post about the factors affecting body composition, and I will probably end up returning to it several times over the blogging journey.

Our lives have become far less active. Thinking of the pre-conception exercise, I was helping my Mum put captions on digitized 8mm family films, and I could see that the women, even when pregnant, were still active.

Often that activity was the activity of running a household.  Women who now go out to work, as well as run households, have lots of labor-saving devices, but it means that we have lost incidental activity that added up to greater fitness.

My favorite example is the impact of automatic washing machines and dryers – much less effort than the old wringer washing machine and the washing line. And, of course, nappies for at least one and often more than one baby or toddler.

Then there are simple things like singing and rocking while standing rather than sitting.  Learning to “wear” your baby so you can move around and do housework encourages more activity. There are wonderful classes, such as baby yoga and baby pilates.

When the baby is doing tummy time, we can be down there and part of it –

Many women with small babies wonder how they can be active. The obvious thing is getting out for a walk with the baby in the pram as soon as possible.

Plunket recommends waiting until a baby is six months old before going into public swimming pools, but there are classes available for children from 3 months old in many centers. In other countries, including the UK, they start as early as six weeks, just after the 6-week vaccinations. Get advice from your GP as to whether your baby is ready to go into the pool.

As a kid in the 1970s, I got to walk EVERWHERE and from an early age. Once I could safely ride a bike (and it took two years and multiple bruises to be successful thanks to the dyspraxia) then I could ride, but that was more common in school holidays when I was in the Clutha Valley.  We didn’t have a TV until I was about 12, so lots of time spent out and about playing in the garden.  So despite being hopeless at sports in school, I still got plenty of activity.

Kids have had a lot of the incidental activity to be removed from their lives – we are all busier and far more fearful about letting them walk solo to school. Although the roads are more dangerous, the level of stranger abductions of children in NZ is very low. Our media, unfortunately, makes us frighteningly aware of the possibility rather than the reality. Net result, kids get driven to school and driven home.

On top of this, there is far more inactive leisure opportunity than previously. Screentime is VERY inactive time, even compared to things like drawing, indoor play or even reading a book.

So am I saying, “chuck your 5-year-old out the door and expect them to walk to school?”Far from it. Setting realistic goals about being active with your kids is the best way we can move forward.

 

 

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