Instant Recess is gonna get you

Two completely different articles have reinforced something I already knew: the vast majority of 1190 Americans are in horrific physical condition.

The first piece was an Advertising Age article reporting that our nation's kids “…overwhelmingly chose McDonald's as their favorite fast-food restaurant (37 percent picked Mickey D's, 10 percent liked Subway and a mere eight percent opted for Burger King).”

McDonald's is so successful with kids, says one industry analyst, because of its Happy Meals. Eric Giandelone of Mintel says the calorie-laden meals make going to McDonald's “…fun for kids.” I'll bet the trips they make later in life to obesity clinics won't be as much fun.

McDonald's disturbing success with our nation's youth dovetailed neatly with an excellent Jane E. Brody column in a recent New York Times Health Section. In it, Brody profiles Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA, who says, “Being sedentary is the norm in America.”  Ninety-five percent of Americans, says Yancey, “…spend most of our waking time sitting, reclining or lying down.' Let me repeat that statistic: 95 percent of us do nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. A Happy Meal legacy, perhaps?

Dr. Yancey has a name for America's inertia. She calls it “sedentary behavior disorder.” I call it laziness.

She has a solution for SBD and has even written a book about it called “Instant Recess.” Unlike the recess we remember from grade school however, this newer, adult version consists of “two, 10-minute breaks of enjoyable community activity as part of people's everyday lives.” Yancey suggests brisk group walks wherever people gather: workplaces, day care centers, conferences, etc. She says instant recess beats structured exercise since most people “get tired when they exert themselves just a little bit, which of course discourages them from exercising.” I'd call that laziness as well.

I'm all for Dr. Toni Yancey's instant recess strategy. I just hope the group walks don't pass by a McDonald's. I can just see one of the members suggesting an instant recess from the instant recess.

15 thoughts on “Instant Recess is gonna get you

  1. Good stuff, Ghost. I mean your observation, not the food American kids are shoveling down their throats. I agree with you the crap we’re ingesting is fattening us up for the kill, not foodstuffs from Italy or France.

  2. It’s the high-fructose corn syrup. I don’t think the Italians or the Parisians are eating less fattening foods or spending more time sweating to the oldies; rather, they’re not ingesting gobs of high-fructose corn syrup with virtually every meal the way we do here.
    As for the kids, a couple of years ago I was a lunch monitor for the second- and third-graders at my local school. Having the job of wheeling the garbage can up and down the rows, I got great insight into what the average American kid is eating: Processed foods full of high-fructose corn syrup and chemicals.
    Our food supply is literally killing us — but we like it because it’s profitable and convenient.

  3. I have to agree with you, Julie. Americans eating supersized portions of American food are solely responsible for the nation’s obesity epidemic. We can’t blame France this time.

  4. Blaming France, Italy and China for the unhealthy food choices of Americans is unfair and blatantly inaccurate. I’ve visited both Italy and France several times. Despite the “pomme fritte” and “dolci,” the children and adults in those countries don’t seem to have the epidemic of obesity found in America.
    Perhaps it’s because they don’t eat in-between meals, which Americans seem to consider a national sport. Why someone can’t sit through a 2-hour movie or ballgame without eating an entree is beyond me. Popcorn and peanuts are a thing of the past.

  5. I find it interesting that we all bemoan how busy we are – doing 57 things at once – but we’re somehow not willing to add exercise into the mix. Why does it have to be a stand-alone activity that’s unpleasant? Can’t we make it part of our multitasking? How about hoofing part of the commute (not possible for everyone, i know), or a taking a meeting for a walk around the block (certainly no duller than sitting in a conference room), or maybe turning time with the kids into a dance party in the living room or game of tag outside. The fact of the matter is, being sedentary is a choice, because if being active was important, people would find the time. We do for everything else.

  6. Good points. And I agree–that 20 minutes can be found. Where I get annoyed is with the fact that we can often only find 20 minutes. Even an hour is too little time, Book. And the resulting choices we have for moving around are very limited as a result of that time. Part of the reason I haven’t exercised as much as I could have throughout my adult life is because the choices I often have are so dull–at least to me. Running on a treadmill staring at a wall. Walking around the same block three times a week. It’s NOTHING like what we used to do as kids at recess; it’s work in and of itself. Exercise shouldn’t be work–that’s my belief. Oh, to be able to spend a lunch hour playing four square or kick ball–not caring about that 1:00 meeting. To be able to bike home from work like I did as a kid, instead of my 40-minute commute by car. But you’re right, Rep–it’s all about choices, and for most of us we’ve chosen the hectic path instead of the healthier, more relaxing path.

  7. 20 minutes a day? I give myself one hour every day to do what I please. Exercise, read, run my own errands. Consequently, the house is dusty, dishes are not done, etc., but it’s my hour out of a normal 17 hour awake part of the day. I’m not giving it up.

  8. A very interesting POV to be sure, Aaiello. But, those of us who do find time to exercise also lead very hectic lives. The trick is in deciding what’s important to you personally vs. professionally. There’s always been tons of work to do and there always will be. You need to find 20 minutes a day that’s devoted just to you. And, I’m sorry, but I simply don’t believe you can’t find those 20 minutes. But, then again, I’m overly simplistic.

  9. I know that you are very into fitness, Rep, and while I tend to disagree with what I feel are your overly simplistic diagnoses of America’s obesity problem (read: laziness), I do see your point in this post. However, I find it interesting that “a brisk 10-minute walk” is the best that Dr. Yancy can do in terms of suggesting “instant recess.” Why? Because our culture of work doesn’t allow for much more. We’re in touch with co-workers more than ever, thanks to smart phones. You wonder how a walking group would react if they passed a McDonald–what would happen in the phone rang or e-mail came through? Probably, “Sorry, gang–I gotta get back to the office.” And when I think of recess as a kid, I think of games, running around, laughing, goofing off. Honestly, “a brisk walk” doesn’t compare. I wouldn’t want to go on a brisk walk when I was 8–why would I want to go on one now? Would you prefer a brisk walk over the mountain climbing you do? I think not. I would suggest that the real problem is the insane amount of work that our culture has imposed upon itself, and the resulting lack of time available to do anything that’s really fun for any length of time. When I get home in the evening after my 9 or 10-hour day, I spend time with the kids, eat some dinner, and find myself with 2 hours left before bedtime–if there isn’t anything around the house that needs fixing or tending to. Weekends aren’t nearly long enough to do the things we want to do–especially since so many of us spend at least part of our weekends working. Is it any wonder that most of us spend what little time we have left supine in front of the TV?

  10. All great ideas, Greg. But, the experts will tell you 95 percent of Americans will STILL find ways to avoid exercise at all costs. They may have treadmills or exercycles attached to their desks but, given an option, the average person simply won’t exercise. Happy Meal? Yes. Cardio? No.

  11. Book: I hate seeing all 3, 4 and 5 year old kids being pushed around in baby strollers. Greg: Sorry, but we can’t blame ANY of this on food from other countries.

  12. Just think of all of foreign foods we adopt in this country, RepMan, that contribute to our unhealthy lifestyles. French fries, Italian pastry, Chinese egg rolls and the list goes on.
    Maybe we should exercise while we work. How about developing a mini cycle that can be hidden under our desks so we can pedal while we talk on the phone.
    Or, how about putting on a headset while walking on a treadmill in the office so we can talk to our clients at the same time.
    We think that animals are stupid, but maybe we get one of those big giant wheels for the office that we often find hampsters on. While we are “spinning our wheels” we can use it as a brainstorming session, yet burn off calories in the process. Let’s see whatever creative ideas your readers can contribute. We might be able to start up our own product line.

  13. Did you happen to see Sarah Palin’s Tweet about Michelle Obama’s nutrition program for public schools? She savaged it (and Obama) and said it’s another example of Big Government trying to run our lives. In this case, most Americans CAN’T or WON’T take care of their kids’ nutrition needs, so the government has to step in. You go, Michelle.

  14. That, coupled with the fact that gym is now eliminated from most schools and the advent of the video era, has been, along with reality tv, the downfall of american youth. Drive by a high school at end of day and all you see is the mommies picking up their kids. They don’t even have to walk. Disgusting.