Junkfood Science: Never too young?

November 13, 2007

Never too young?

Yes, this news story is for real. (Although it may be taken from a marketing piece, but what media story isn’t?) Four month old babies are being enrolled in special gyms to “get them in the habit of exercise” as part of efforts to prevent childhood obesity. The gym talks of the need to build their “core” — before they start crawling!

Four-month-old babies attending gym classes

Parents are taking babies as young as four months to special gyms amid growing fears about childhood obesity. A U.S. chain has signed up hundreds of babies and toddlers across London for “developmental gymnastics"....A new centre in Chiswick has registered almost 500 children since September - including 150 babies under three - and two more gyms are due to open in Chelsea and Hampstead.

Grandparents are even buying their grandchildren membership of the gyms as a Christmas present....The Little Gym says its £300-a-term classes for four-month-olds upwards, based on gymnastics and including forward rolls, build up babies' core body strength before they start crawling. Classes for children up to 12 also include “galloping" and monkey jumps to get them in the habit of exercise. Parents accompany children up to three years old, helping them to “walk" along a beam, do forward rolls and use balancing bars....

Experts say there is little point in targeting babies as young as four months.

This isn’t just a UK curiosity. The Little Gym, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has 250 franchises around the world.

There’s one Grandmother who probably won’t be giving her grandchildren memberships this Christmas. A lovely review of the childhood obesity issue and how hard kids have it today was written by Joycelyn Ward at Maya’s Granny. Her thoughtful understanding of what this war on obesity is doing to children, especially the fat ones, come through her words as she writes:

Even preschoolers are so afraid of being fat that some of them are putting themselves on diets. Four year olds, instead of beaming with delight when they see themselves in the mirror, have started sucking in their guts.

The other thing that my personal history and the reading I've done in the last ten years have taught me is that once you become obsessed with your weight you are in for hell. Eating is a self-conscious act. You hesitate to be the first one who admits to hunger, because as a fat person you aren't entitled to be hungry. You don't go to the pool because people will see just how fat you are. You try everything you can think of to get rid of the “extra" weight. And, since our body sizes are pretty well determined by our genes (want to be thin? have four thin grandparents.), if the weight comes off, it comes back on again….

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