Children of every age exhibit unhealthy lifestyles associated with chronic diseases that are increasing at an alarming rate. Promoting optimum health for all children is a complex undertaking that is complicated by an adult society caught in the spiral of unhealthy lifestyle pulling the children with them into the vortex. Physical inactivity, poor nutrition, poor response to stress and excessive use of medications are some of the features of lifestyle with dire consequences for children. To ignore this situation is to risk limiting the potential for society.
The problem will not be corrected quickly and no single intervention will reverse the process. Unhealthy lifestyles are a societal issue and the solution will be forged by the community. Healthy lifestyles for children and adults are best built upon a foundation of meaningful experiences. Motivation and enthusiasm count for a lot.
Conditions that shape physiology and influence health begin during pregnancy and extend through early childhood. Inadequate fetal nutrition can make people more vulnerable years later to obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and problems with immunity. Among other things, breast feeding influences immunity, allergies, childhood obesity and development of hypertension in adult life. Preparing young women for pregnancy and the care of infants is a responsibility that cannot be left to chance.
Children learn best as participants rather than spectators and peer groups are an important influence upon development. This is especially tue when learning the basics of healthy lifestyle. Preparing and eating nutritious food and growing vegatables are effective ways to learn nutrition. Tending a garden is physical activity. Playing physically active games and accomplishing tasks that require manual labor are exercise. The learning process is enhanced when the task is significant, when there is a sense of accomplishment and when the task is entertaining. A sense of belonging to a community associated with service to others is an effective teacher of purpose and healthy lifestyle.