For someone who admittedly hates exercise, Dr. June LeDrew might seem an odd person to become an advocate for physical fitness.
But the professor of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Regina has taken on the task of encouraging Canadians, in particular children, to get more active and is asking others to join her.
LeDrew was the featured speaker at the annual Women of Today luncheon that was held last Wednesday at the Wylie-Mitchell Hall. In her humorous and candid address, LeDrew said inactivity among today's youth, and the health issues that result from that sedentary lifestyle, are so bad that this generation of children has a shorter estimated lifespan than their parents.
"Be active, eat well," LeDrew told the sold out luncheon which also featured the announcement of the Women of Today award winners (see above story). "It can be that simple people. If we did a little more of that every day our society would be a lot better off and, quite frankly, with the way our health-care system is getting pinched in terms of budget nowadays, that little bit would make our lives so much simpler and we would have other things to do with our tax dollars."
LeDrew said in order to achieve health benefits, an adult needs to take 10,000 steps a day. Children, because they are in periods of growth, need 16,000 a day.
"It's not all at once, this is the other thing people get all mixed up. They think you have to get on a treadmill and run and run and run until they puke or get that nauseous feeling. Add the steps together, all the little steps in your activity of daily living count."
LaDrew touched on the top five things she has learned from her students with regards to health care. Among them was the necessity to improve one's health care literacy and to watch for blunders, a point she drove home with a story about her grandmother's misunderstanding of which end of the body a suppository goes into.
She added a blunder that is common among today's parents is plopping them down in front of a TV and allowing them to remain there for hours.
"Kids are supposed to be doing two hours of physical activity every day for optimal growth. For optimal growth, they need physical movement of the bones in the muscles and if they don't have it, that opportunity may be gone forever and they'll never get it back. We need to get them moving.
"The Heart and Stroke Foundation has come up with a statistic that says our children will now live shorter lifespans than their parents due to physical inactivity. We have a problem with Type 2 diabetes running rampant, particularly in Saskatchewan. I think we are only behind Manitoba."
LeDrew added that inactivity is leading to other issues such as heart disease and heart attacks in people in their 30s.
A big part of the problem, in her estimation, is too much screen time for children these days, whether it be in front of TV screen, computer screen or cellphone. She quoted a recent study that said children under two should not have any screen time whatsoever. As for older children LeDrew urged parents to keep a close watch on their kids screen time and don't become what she called "extreme screenies."
"Extreme screenies spend up to seven hours a day on computer games. When you add in the sleep time, the time they sit in school, they are sitting around an awful lot."
Before closing out her speech, LeDrew left the audience with a challenge, one that resonated with the women at the luncheon.
"The challenge I have for you as women of today is to ensure that we don't raise a generation of boys with bigger breasts than we have. With your sons and your brothers and your husbands, let's try and prevent this from happening."