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Pros and Cons of Back to School

September 16, 2008 – 7:30 am

Across Andalucia children and teens are back in school. On one hand the regional government is underlining the many gains made for this school year: new schools, subsidised text books, expanded cafeteria services. Doctors however have raised a red flag.

In fact, none other than the Spanish Flebology Society (specialists in veins and circulatory problems) has made a visit to the Andalucian province of Almería to study 400 students between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. They’re worried that young people spend too much time sitting – up to nine hours a day, to be specific. And they say this may be causing them to develop circulatory problems at younger than expected ages.

Let’s be realistic. Southern Spain might exude traditional charm in our foreign eyes, but the younger generations are modern in every sense of the word. Not only do they spend time sitting through their classes at school and studying for hours afterwards, but many are expert couch potatoes enjoying dozens of favourite TV shows throughout the week thanks to digital and satellite TV. When they’re not studying or watching the tele, you’ll probably find them hooked to their mobile phones, fiddling with their MP3 players and I-Pods or playing any of a myriad of video games…

So what happened to sports and other forms of physical activity? To be fair, many children do participate in afterschool activities that get them moving. And many families still honour the Spanish tradition of walking together in the evenings. But is this really enough?

Doctors who conducted the study in Almería aren’t sure what’s happening. They say it’s only a hypothesis at this point, but it looks like circulatory ailments that used to only affect the middle age and elderly could be creeping up on our young people and this is something they will have to continue to study.

Regardless of what these circulatory specialists find in future studies, let’s remember that bones are at stake as well. After all, they only develop density in response to our activity levels. And what about weight problems? You only need to visit your local park to confirm the news that more and more children are suffering from obesity.

It’s great to be back to school, but let’s get back to a balanced lifestyle as well! It may be difficult to change school routines, but there really is no excuse for just sitting around after school and on weekends. We have fabulous weather, beautiful beaches, promenades, sports facilities, swimming pools and so much more.

The key is education and example. Kids need to know more about the health dangers they face if they cave in to a totally sedentary lifestyle (especially if it’s accompanied by a steady diet of junk food!). Then they need to see that we adults enthusiastically embrace a more physically active life.

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