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Magic Pants: The Key to Solving Childhood Obesity

by Denis Faye - The Nutrition Nerd | December 9, 2011

Happy Friday, Nerd Herd! It’s been a challenging month here in the Fitness Nerd Cave, but I was allowed to take my sling off yesterday. Yay! Despite a non-existant bicep and an achy trap, I’m back on the keyboard and high on life (a welcome alternative to Percocet).

Contrary to what friends and family assured me, it appears that Western civilization has become completely unhinged without my gentle, hilarious guidance. Here’s a break down.

First, America’s youth continued to get more out-of-shape. Here in California, only 31% of kids were able to pass the California Department of Education’s statewide physical fitness tests. A little more detail from the Los Angeles Times:

To pass the test, or score what state officials call a “healthy fitness zone,” a ninth-grade male, 5 feet 6 and 150 pounds, would need to run a mile in nine minutes, perform at least 16 push-ups and do at least 24 curl-ups. Body fat is also measured, along with flexibility. About 25% of fifth-graders passed all six sections; 32% of seventh-graders and 36.8% of ninth-graders did so.

The article also mentions that numbers have gone up in previous years and that the dip could be due to restructuring. So maybe the situation isn’t that dire, but from what the article outlines, they’re not asking kids to do Sparta-level stuff. As I recall, when I was in ninth grade, they’d send us into the woods with nothing but a loin cloth and a butter knife. We weren’t allowed to come home until we’d killed a bear and made its fur into a cloak. Being vegetarian at the time, I instead stripped a Birch tree and fashioned a three-piece suit from its bark. You might sneer, but it was no mean feat – especially getting the pleats right. Technically, the tribe shouldn’t have let me back in, but I got points for originality. (That’s how I roll.) 

(By the way, what’s with the term “curl-up”? Is that the new politically correct way to say sit-up? If we rename the exercise, does that mean they’ll no longer blow out your neck if you do them wrong?)

Regardless of how you crunch numbers (or your abs), here’s where I think the problem lies:

A survey released last month by the California State PTA found that 75% of the 1,600 members polled said their school’s physical education and sports programs had been eliminated or reduced. Restoring such programs was the top health concern cited.

Apparently, the solution to this problem is entirely too obvious for Americans to wrap their heads around, so instead of making kids exercise as part of the War on Obesity, we get weird science like this:

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a specific gene that plays an important role in keeping a steady balance between our food intake and energy expenditure. The study may help scientists better understand the keys to fighting obesity and related disorders such as diabetes.

You may think that sound cool, but it inevitably leads to crap like this notion from one of the researchers:

The existence of drug targets in areas outside of the central nervous system (the body’s “periphery”) might help in the effort to develop drugs that influence metabolism without major side effects, he noted.

Seriously? You want something that influences metabolism? How about physical education? How about teaching kids the value of exercise? What’s with our society’s constant drive to find work-arounds for fitness and healthy eating?

See what I’m talking about? The Fitness Nerd goes up on the racks for a few weeks and humankind loses all perspective. The only ones who seem to be able to get along without my help are the Japanese, who managed to spend November simultaneously making it illegal to get fat and inventing magic, fat-burning pants.

(Although, based in this video, they could use a few pointers on doin’ the Robot.)

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