People should sit less and move more
I’m going for a walk tomorrow from Littleborough to Marsden and, to be honest, I don’t expect to see a whole lot of people while I’m out. The weather is forecast to be partly cloudy and 11°C or to put it another way, perfect walking weather. Another walk I took recently from Stocksmoor to Berry Brow was pretty bare. It was more or less the first ‘perfect walking weather’ day of the year and I expected to see more than the five or six people (in only two or three groups) than I did. This has led me to wonder; why don’t people get out any more?
I was just reading a story on the Guardian website about kids being outside and enjoying themselves. It’s increasingly rare to see kids climbing trees, exploring woodland, running around in fields and suchlike. I’m only 30 and I was doing this kind of thing when I was a kid so why has it changed?
People always point to the rise in computers, the internet, television and other distracting technology. You’ll be lucky to find anyone who uses this kind of tech more than I do, I had a computer from the age of two and Sky TV since before the football was on Sky Sports (in fact, it was the day of the first Simpsons episode to be shown in the U.K., whenever that was). Ok, the internet wasn’t about back then but I still had enough to keep me indoors; Scalextric, darts etc. The difference is that I was almost always out playing football, riding my bike, mucking about with my friends.
I lived around 3 miles from my primary school so at the weekend I used to regularly ride my bike across town to go and see my schoolmates. Once I’d met them, we’d often go to High Elms to ride our bikes around the woods. Mum warned me about ‘dirty old men’, or paedophiles as we now call them(!), but let me get on with it, safe in the knowledge that my gradually built up experience of only being allowed down to the third lamppost on my own, then round the corner at the bottom of the hill, then down to the park, then into the fields next to the park and so on had given me.
This is what makes me think that technology is an excuse adults use for kids not going out. I believe that it’s parents being too wary and not letting kids have their independence. I learnt a lot by riding off five miles from home on my bike at age 10. I learnt a lot climbing the tree half way down the park and jumping off it. Ok, I could’ve been run over while on the ride to Green Street Green or broke an arm jumping off the tree but I didn’t. Even if I did, it’s a lesson learnt!!
The article says that the ‘roaming radius’ of kids had shrunk by 90% in the past 30 years from the 1990’s, when I was out and about – makes you wonder just how far I would’ve gone if I was a child of the 50’s or 60’s! Perhaps I was an exception to the rule but I feel it was good preparation for life, especially how I’ve gone about things, moving away from home and all.
I despair when I walk or drive past football pitches on a Sunday morning in autumn, winter or spring and they’re not being used. Why aren’t they being used? If you didn’t have a match on a Sunday morning when I was a kid there was no chance you’d find a goal to have a kickabout in, you’d have to wait until the afternoon.
Getting outdoors and closer to nature helps to keep children fit, they can learn about the world around them, and most of all its fun. Building a den, picking flowers, climbing trees – the outdoors is a treasure trove, rich in imagination. It brings huge benefits that we believe every child should have the opportunity to experience. And there are huge costs when they don’t.
Too right. Another good point:
But it’s essential for children to play out and for us to guide them, so that they know the dangers and boundaries. They love the canal, for instance, and it’s good that they should learn about all the wildlife there, but also about the risks of water.
Most of us live too much of a sedentary lifestyle these days, myself included. I’m making changes in my life right now that involve moving more and sitting less. I know I’ll benefit from this in later years and I enjoy it right now so it’s a win-win situation.
My message to everyone reading this is get out more. If you’ve got kids, get them out of the door. Go with them. Even if you don’t want to go with them, send them out anyway. Set rules, of course, and give them a phone or whatever so you can keep track of them (text messages and Google Latitude on a cheapo Android phone will do the job). Everyone will benefit in the short, medium and long-term. It gives kids a respect of the outdoors that will serve them well in later life and keep them fit.
If you want to read what walks I’ve been doing, by the way, I’ve got a new website where I’m keeping track of such things with photos, downloadable routes and maps and other useful features. Check it out at Walking About.