Friday, September 16, 2011

3 Simple Steps to Wellness

During a recent marketing meeting, I communicated my desire to simplify the messaging that we were crafting by saying, "We need to break it down to 3 simple steps. You know, just like Special Agent Oso and the '3 Special Steps' song." One of my team members looked at me with a frightened sense that I was going insane. The other team member, who has children, immediately picked up the signing, "Step one... step two..." We found a You tube link to the Special Agent Oso song and sent it to our colleague who wasn't attuned to music inspired by Disney. Special Agent Oso's "3 Special Steps" songs are now a regular part of our marketing discussions.

A recent study linked short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year olds to watching just nine minutes of the "Sponge Bob." (Chicago) Historical research has shown similar connections between watching too much television and long-term attention problems in children, however the recent study showed a more urgent issue in identifying problems after only limited exposure. The children in the study who had watched "Sponge Bob" scored worse on mental function tests after watching the show than those who had watched the slower-paced, PBS cartoon "Caillou" or children who were assigned to draw pictures. This study adds another issue for parents to be alert to in terms of controlling the television that their children are exposed to along with studies that support parallels between increased time watching TV and childhood obesity. U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama's campaign to reduce childhood obesity contains a focused component of encouraging children to get outside and exercise, supporting the idea of getting kids away from the TV for a bit.

Our family does a reasonable job in controlling the TV habits of our children. Granted, I am all-too-familiar with Disney's Jake and the Neverland Pirates and often find myself singing the theme song to Disney XD's Zeke and Luther. However, we limit the duration of our TV time and most often enjoy those programs together as a family. Most importantly, we balance the time in front of the TV with outdoor play and active exercise, which is mentally and physically healthy for all of us.

Bloomberg reported this week that "the United States health care spending will rise by as much as $66 billion a year by 2030 because of increased childhood obesity if historic trends continue..." That is $66 billion, with a "B." One of the authors of the findings, Boyd Swinburn said, "We are in an obesity and chronic disease crisis, although it doesn't feel like it. It's a little bit like the frog sitting in hot-water -- it doesn't realize that it's going to boil until it's too late." To be certain, these are alarming trends of epidemic proportions.

The good news is that we have the ability to directly and significantly impact chronic disease, obesity, and reportedly, attention problems in children. Epidemics of global proportions can be mitigated. Today. By us. We can start small, but behavior change is imminent.

Change isn't easy, but the prescription is simple, actually it's 3 special steps. Step one: We must make smarter, more nutritious food choices. Natural food that isn't processed is always a better choice. Step two: We must increase our exercise and activity. Walking the dog or choosing the stairs are easy ways to add to our daily activity. Step three: We must intentionally seek lives where our stress is reduced and positive, healthy relationships flourish.

At our house we typically protect Fridays as family night and it often includes pizza dinner and a movie. It's not a bad choice, as we limit pizza to once a week and enjoy the movie time winding down from the busy schedules of the week. But, maybe tonight we'll collaborate to create healthy smoothies for dinner and enjoy an evening outside playing and having a campfire. It's 3 special steps to a healthier evening. And that's a plan Special Agent Oso would love.