Friday, 3 January 2014

Lifestyle responsible for present generation being unhealthy, say fitness experts

"Faster! Come on! Take a challenge!" screams fitness trainer Nandana Dissanayake as he puts the latest attendees of his fat-burning class through the motions at the Al Falaj Hotel gym in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman..

There are about eight people in his one-hour session today, and they're all there only to lose weight.

Speaking to me after the class, Nandana says that obesity is a problem that is rampant amongst today's youngsters. He blames parents of children for this problem.

"The parents, mostly they don't have much time to take care of, or talk to, or play with their kids," says the 40-year-old, when discussing why it is more common to see kids playing video games instead of engaging in physical activities in open spaces.

"So they go [for] something like this, but actually you can't blame the children for this. This mainly has to [be] controlled by their parents." 

His colleague Krishna Kumar agrees with him. "If you have the father and mother aware of fitness and the food control, that is how you do it in the home. Children first, you have to motivate the children."

"Sixty to seventy percent of fathers and mothers are not keeping time for the children," he adds. "They have to keep some time for the children to give the advice.

The father also [must] be aware of his health. He is going for fitness training, he also has to think [about the] children also, how they become involved for that exercise.

"The mother has to identify [if] the child is getting fat. The mother has to identify [this] to control their food," he continues. "The mother is going to buy things from the market. She can identify what exactly she's buying."

Related article: Children addicted to junk food

Nandana Dissanayake, Fitness trainer, Al Falaj Hotel Gym. Nandana puts groups of individuals through a series of fat-burning exercises thrice a week. Reproduced with permission

Video games and junk food

Video games, the trainers explain, are only one part of this vicious cycle. Junk food makes people lazy and that in turn dissuades them from going outside to play. 

"Now, people [are] used to eating 'instant' products," explains Nandana. "Before, we were not trying to fill our tummies. We were trying to [eat] at least something healthy."

But he says this will only come if parents tell their kids what is healthy. "Parents must be behind [their kids] and they have to tell them to eat at least the right [things]," he adds.

Parents have to be behind the children [to get them to eat] all the nutritious things," says Nandana, who is a qualified instructor from the International Sport Sciences Association in the United States.

"What the kids are eating, what they prefer to eat, what they prefer not to eat," he continues. "Children have to [be] given a menu, like our parents were doing, always behind us [saying], 'eat this, eat that, eat this'. Nowadays, actually, parents are so busy."

"They come [home] in a school bus, parents are not there, nannies are there and they are eating whatever is there. [Then they're] going to sleep, going to [their] PlayStations [and] computers. The lifestyle has changed, it's not like before. You cannot compare before and now."

Krishna Kumar, who prefers working with his clients via one-on-one interaction. Reproduced with permission
"Nowadays, [the] father and mother are not allowing them to go for some activities in the school," adds Krishna, himself a former Physical Education teacher. "In school, they have to play around."

"The main thing [is] the father and mother have to motivate them, they have to say to them to go for some activities in the school. Secondly, the teachers have to force them"

"Now, KFC is there, Pizza Hut is there, lot of junk food is there now," He says. "That's why people are drinking Pepsi. Always, you can see the can with the children, and the school authorities, before, they were giving lots of chips and Pepsi from the canteen."

"This is very addictive for the children, they're making you lazy," he finishes.

The adverse effect of this, says Nandana, is what contributes to obesity. It is this lack of activity that blunts their all-round progress, which in turn means that while they are living, they are not alive in its truest form.

This obesity takes a toll on people's bodies, which stunts all-round participation.

"Before, [the] majority of the people were active, because of playgrounds. Some activity was there. That is not there [now], most children are very slow. It is very dangerous for the future."

Governments are trying to change this pattern. In the UK the Public Health Responsibility Deal is ensuring that the government works hand in hand with private companies to help create a healthier population.

Over in the United States, in 2010, Congress passed reforms that contain several measures to stop obesity.

As a result of this, 16 of the world's biggest fast food companies slashed a combined total of more than 6.4 trillion calories from their products, with aims to cut a further 1.5 trillion by 2015.

What to eat

Nandana also explains how people must eat food. "We have to find out what are the carbohydrate foods, what are the proteins, what are the fats," he says. Balance can be achieved by managing the consumption of these foods, he adds.
Nandana putting people through his fat-burning routine. He tells me that people today are obese because of their lifestyle. Reproduced with permission

"The generation that is going on nowadays, the way it is going, anybody can get any disease because always we are eating instant food," he explains. "You cannot get without fertilisers. The food, nowadays, you cannot trust."

"Always, you have to read the ingredients. What is the calorie content, what is the fat content, you have to read them. If you do those things, you will not get harm to your body."  

Governments have already moved to enforce a proper labelling system. With 61.9% of adults and 28% of children between two and 15 years old already obese in the UK, the government has introduced a front of pack labelling system to indicate what food contains.

In the States, it was found out that one in six people bought healthier food after a labelling system was introduced on junk food.

"Comparing with the previous generation," says Krishna, who holds a Masters degree in Physical Education. "Everybody is thinking 'they have some fitness'. The fitness is there because of the lifestyle for them. They controlled the food system, that time not much junk food is there, they are eating fresh food."

"If you take some of the junk food, they (the manufacturers) are not mentioning there how many calories will be there," he continues."Whatever product they are giving they have to mention. They have to identify and mention how many calories will be there in the food."

"When the mother is cooking, she will come to know that 'I cannot use this much oil'," explains Krishna. "This will help the child not to get fat [and] get good health.

"But when outside people are coming and cooking, they want to finish the job and go. What we can do exactly, we can tell them 'see, you have to cook only these things'."


But Nandana also adds that today's young adolescents also become more aware of their unhealthy eating habits as they grow up and leave their childhood behind.

It is during their teens when the signs of independence are first stirring that many develop an interest in hitting the gym in an effort to burn off calories.

This is also because it is during their late teens that children finish school and are normally therefore allowed more freedom to discover things for themselves.

"Because of the lifestyle [of] the parents, they don't have much time to spend with the children so because of that they are giving money to the children to join the gym," says Nandana.

Both trainers tell me that today's children become more aware of the importance of diet and exercise once they finish school, which is normally when they gain more independence than they previously had.  Reproduced with permission
"Children of 13,14 years, most of the gym is not allowed because they [have] not grown up," he explains. "Their bone condition, their skeleton is not [as] grown up [as] their elders.

"But still, some children, financially if they [are] able to take gym membership, they are going for cardio (cardivascular exercises), especially, to enjoy the atmosphere, the swimming pool, other games. Still, gym training is not advisable," he explains.

"Now they are [becoming aware], but after 16, because of the 12th standard," says Krishna. Class 12 is when children in the Middle East and large parts of Asia normally finish their schooling. He says that previous generations were not as enthusiastic about fitness are today's young adults are.

Krishna explains that today's generation, once they finish school, become a lot more aware about fitness. "Lot of people are coming. I can identify how people are coming for membership (to the gym).

"They are coming forward, but mostly, they don't know exactly where to start, where to stop. That advice they have to take from the proper trainer."

Related article: Mind over matter, says fitness trainer

Nandana says that when it comes to working out, one must not lose hope easily. "Mostly if someone trains under the trainer, the trainer must encourage them," he says. "Their parents or their brothers, sisters or friends [should] encourage them, always motivation is important.

"Someone is putting some efforts to come to some level of fitness or come to some level of their activity, some encouragement [and] pushing is very important," he continues. "To self-dedicate is also important. Without enjoying your exercise or activity, you're not getting the right results"

"Self motivation plus confidence, commitment, dedication is very important." 

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