Our glowing televisions show us endless hours of exercise machines, diets, pills, juicers — you name it — all stuff designed to slim our waistlines, brighten our outlooks, and extend our life clocks.
B-list celebrities and spindly wafer-thin models pitch gadgets and doodads, all somehow crafted to slide right under the bed and out of the way, all for a spectacular price that can be easily broken up into convenient installment payments.
None of that is necessary because there is a very simple thing — a very inexpensive thing — designed by the highest of authorities, just waiting for us to use.
It’s called the outdoors.
As this country’s obesity rates threaten to swallow us up faster than Honey Boo Boo scarves fists full of cheese balls, we have to stop and admit there is a serious problem with a simple solution. We need to exercise more and eat less. Period.
The mantra in living rooms across this fat land ought to be: Get off the couch … put down the game controller or remote … DO something … and do it outside.
Thousands of children across North Carolina are already taking advantage of the benefits afforded by the great outdoors, and their caregivers say the activity is improving their health.
It’s part of a statewide effort to increase the health and nutrition education for children and their families called Shape NC. In Randolph County alone, 4,000 children benefit from the program, which provides outdoor classrooms and specialized education.
“The outdoor learning environments are really critical. The classroom has now moved to the outdoors, so it’s serving an educational purpose as well as increasing physical activity,” said Pauline McKee, executive director of the Randolph County Partnership for Children.
After peaking in 2005, the number of overweight children in Randolph County is on the decline, McKee said, which she attributes to Smart Start and Shape NC programs. Shape NC is made possible through a partnership with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC) and the North Carolina Partnership for Children.
In addition to funding provided by BCBSNC, Shape NC programs are assisted by community partners like Kelly Contractors of Asheboro. Owner Mac Kelly said his company contributes to the outdoor playgrounds for very personal reasons.
“I’ve got two young kids myself, and we grew up on a farm — my family did. We’re seeing that a lot of kids are lacking some of the natural-type atmosphere,” Kelly said.
The outdoor playgrounds incorporate natural features and are constructed with the help of volunteers and donations.
The goal is for Shape NC to change child care communities so that young children’s earliest experiences with food and physical activity promote a lifetime of healthy behaviors.
“Shape NC is an answer to a staggering epidemic our state and nation are facing,” said Brad Wilson, chairman of the BCBSNC Foundation. “Bringing a program that reinforces the benefits of a healthy weight, nutritious foods, physical activity and healthy living to these children, their teachers and families is a powerful step in the right direction.”
Follow the lead of the children and embrace the great outdoors. A little fresh air will do you good.