A warn­ing from home over a weighty issue

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO - Graeme El­der

As I brace my­self for my first win­ter in Bei­jing, I can’t help but no­tice that my ad­dic­tion to stay­ing in is get­ting a lot harder to kick.

I’m a house­cat at the best of times. While other peo­ple prowl the streets, be­ing all pro­duc­tive and mak­ing good use of their spare time, I’m usu­ally curled up on the couch watch­ing “just one more episode” of what­ever TV show I’m into that week, or nap­ping af­ter a hec­tic cou­ple of hours on the in­ter­net look­ing at pic­tures of an­i­mals that look like celebri­ties.

In my de­fense, stay­ing in is a hard drug to kick, and an easy one to ra­tio­nal­ize. And it’s also strangely com­fort­ing, like a fa­vorite sweater or

This Day, That Year

Steven Sea­gal movies, although it does come with the oc­ca­sional crumb of guilt, like when you brush off a night out with friends to get York City into the Pre­mier League on Foot­ball Man­ager.

Com­ing from Scot­land, as I do, it would be easy to blame my back­ground for my ad­dic­tion to sofa-slump­ing. As I half-jok­ingly re­marked to a col­league last week, the sports we Scots gen­er­ally do best at are the ones that re­quire the least amount of move­ment.

It’s prob­a­bly lit­tle won­der that the Dan­ish hygge craze has spread so quickly and be­come this year’s life­style trend, with ev­ery­thing from books and classes to food and cloth­ing.

But judg­ing from a re­port last week, my home coun­try is also still strug­gling to shake off its “sick man of Europe” tag.

If any­thing, the sit­u­a­tion is get­ting worse, with the United King­dom’s chil­dren in­creas­ingly swap­ping ex­er­cise for screen time. Teenage boys in par­tic­u­lar are do­ing less phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

For some rea­son, it’s not a prob­lem I’d ex­pected to find in China. But it seems fitness lev­els among school and col­lege stu­dents have also been head­ing down­ward over the last few years.

While young­sters here are still way more ac­tive than they are in my coun­try, the rea­son for the drop is the same grow­ing ad­dic­tion to screens, whether it’s smart­phones or on­line gam­ing.

So China’s plan to in­crease the num­ber of sports fa­cil­i­ties is a laud­able one. Un­like suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments in my coun­try that have presided over the strip­ping away of school play­ing fields and pub­lic soc­cer pitches, here the aim is to add cy­cling and run­ning tracks, and to en­cour­age stu­dents to get out there and use them.

I salute the am­bi­tion and hope it works. For a glimpse at the al­ter­na­tive, let’s head back briefly and de­press­ingly to the UK, where child­hood obe­sity is at record lev­els and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als warn of an im­pend­ing health­care cri­sis un­less the trend is re­versed.

It’s prob­a­bly too late for this old house­cat to un­learn his bad habits, and we can’t un­in­vent tech­nol­ogy. And nor should we. But we should cer­tainly be do­ing all we can to en­sure a healthy fu­ture for our chil­dren, wher­ever they live.

Con­tact the writer at graeme@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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YIN LIQIN / FOR CHINA DAILY

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