Obesity In Children. It strikes terror into the hearts of parents, teachers and government officials. But no matter what anyone proposes, the problem’s not going away.
|Sports in the house? Welcome to XaviX. Through sensors, the TV console and wireless sports equipment match players´ movements with the on-screen balls´ flight path. |
“Childhood obesity has increased from 5 percent in 1964 to a staggering 20 percent today — and rising,” states Dr. Alvin Poussaint, the director of the media center of the Judge Baker Children´s Center in Boston. Can toys fight this epidemic and be fun? These can (if researchers and sales figures mean anything). And not a moment too soon.
The Fat Epidemic
“It´s not ‘cool’ to be fat, but that has not prevented an obesity epidemic from occurring among America´s youth,” continues Dr. Poussaint.
Two key causes? Fast food and too much television. It’s a fact: “Children are watching more television,” according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “which leads to more and unhealthier eating and less active playing.” Couch potatoes are evolving into sofa pigs.
“Obviously, a good game of basketball or football every day would help the health, but parents are becoming more busy, not less, and have a reduced amount of time for their offspring, often neither mom, nor dad getting home until evening,” explains Dr. Michael Brody, University of Maryland and chair of the TV/Media Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Kids are left to their own devices, literally: video games. Another sedentary activity. Or are they?
Toys to the Rescue
The hit franchise Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) started as an arcade game seven years ago and “was the biggest thing since Mortal Combat,” according to Gamers.com. It got so big, it was ported to Xbox and PlayStations 1 and 2DDR Ultramix 2 coming out only last year. And it’s been hot, selling over 1.2 million copies in 2004 alone. in 2001, the newest,
Instead of a joystick, players step on a lighted floor-pad in time with the throbbing techno-pop music and flashing neon lights, matching screen instructions with their feet. It’s so healthy, the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency uses it to promote its members’ children to good health. "Today´s kids are tomorrow´s members," says Nidia Henderson, PEIA health promotions manager. "Obesity claims last year cost us $77 million. We have to curtail those costs."
Sports in the house? Welcome to XaviX. Through sensors, the TV console and wireless sports equipment match players’ movement with the on-screen balls’ flight path. Fisher-Price’s ESPN GameStation, a top pick during Christmas 2004, plays six different sports.
Skateboarding around the living room? Not quite, but the Bungee Jumper by Monkey Business allows enough moves to be an active surrogate. Nerf Basketball and Football are rambunctious ways to play, sans busted windows, and there’s always Twister, newly updated, with pop star brothers Nick and Aaron Carter showin’ the moves.
A Slimmer Future
The National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute of the National Institutes of Health launched a campaign this June, seeking to teach nutrition and fitness basics dubbed “We Can!” which stands for "Ways to Enhance Children´s Activity and Nutrition.” U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona explains that it’s a "wonderful program that increases health literacy in children and parents so that children begin to start understanding at an early age how to make healthy choices, how to stay physically active."
By targeting the new mandate for active kids, retailers can capitalize, expanding their sales and product lines with proven sellers. Good sellers and fat fighters, these toys are not only fun to play, they’re good for kids, too.