Nina Hasinski of Redpoint Holidays explains how taking a holiday can be good for all the family and contribute to the fight to reduce childhood obesity. This article was offered to the Webmag; with summer holidays coming along, its message is one we are happy to pass on.
Childhood obesity has been consistently in the headlines over the past few months – and with good reason. Reports that at least 25% of children in the UK are overweight, with 1 in 10 children over the age of 6 officially classed as obese, are worrying for everyone. Whilst poor diet has received a lot of media attention and is obviously a significant factor in this worrying trend, the other, more overlooked contributory cause is the lack of exercise that our young people get – and it’s a problem that won’t be going away anytime soon.
Childhood habits and pursuits have changed with the advance of technology and there is certainly a place for this: the important thing is to get the balance right. Obesity in childhood is actually a really big deal because the body becomes programmed to carry more weight at a young age, which in turn makes it harder to shift that extra weight as an adult.
As most people know, carrying a large amount of excess weight around with you for years will have serious implications for your health: increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and joint problems to mention but a few. However, too many young people have negative associations with exercise because they don’t perceive it as being fun. If you mention the word exercise, many people immediately think of the gym, of running or some other form of physical torture. Sadly, it is almost seen as a punishment, particularly by those who don’t enjoy the traditional school sports such as football and hockey.
My big concern is that we are alienating our children from exercise and that we need to show them that it can actually be fun, as well as being good for them. One really great way of doing this is to try something a little bit different by going on an activity holiday, perhaps as an alternative to the traditional beach break.
Now, everybody’s different, and that becomes even more apparent when people book their holidays. Some people’s idea of the perfect break is to lie in the sun, with the most exercise being a leisurely stroll to a taverna, or turning the pages of your beach blockbuster – whilst others would be bored by this within ten minutes.
My husband Greg and I have always loved all forms of sport – that’s how we met. So, when we set up our own holiday company, Redpoint (www.redpoint.co.uk) we wanted to provide adventure experiences that would be fun and provide an alternative to just lazing on the beach. During the eleven years that we have been organising ski and activity holidays at our Austrian base, we have seen the demand for the ‘extreme’ adventure experience rocket as young people look for something a little different. However, we want to get this message across to families as well: these forms of sport are a wonderful family experience and a great way to get off the sunlounger.
In our experience, once a child has tried their hand at canyoning, river rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing or glacier skiing they’re hooked. And not only is it a fun experience that all the family can join in together, but it’s actually good for them! Whilst our younger guests nearly always come armed with the inevitable games console, once they get into all the activities on offer, the electronic gadgets seem to simply gather dust in their suitcases!
The great thing is that these activities are accessible for everyone: you don’t have to be sporty and athletic to try them out and have a good time, everyone and anyone can have a go: mums, dads, even grannies! We do aim to encourage our younger guests to take up a new, more active pursuit when they return home by providing them with the opportunity to try out a range of activities for the first time on holiday with full instruction and support. In fact, feedback from many of our guests suggest that their children often do just that.
Whilst taking an adventure activity holiday this summer won’t solve the UK’s steadily mounting childhood obesity problem, it will certainly provide a positive role model and be a fantastic experience, as well as a stride in the right direction. Research has shown that one of the major influences over obesity in children is their family lifestyle: if we set our children a bad example by leading sedentary lives, then we must take some of the blame. More than that, it is up to us as parents and adults to show our young people that exercise can actually be fun – and maybe even have a little fun along the way ourselves!
For more information on the range of adventure activity summer holidays offered by Redpoint Holidays, please visit www.redpoint.co.uk or call Sue on 01902 568 034.