I happen to believe that sports are an essential component to a life well lived. A lot of that means participating in sports, but we also get a lot of pleasure in being spectators. Sometimes that’s all we can do. I’ll never ride in the Tour de France, but I like to watch it and keep up with it. Keeping up with sports and the game of the week is OK but don’t let it get in the way of your pursuit of good health and an active lifestyle. This week, a new friend told me about the banner in the gym where he works out. “Your health is not everything but without your health, everything is nothing.”

I get that. I preach that sermon all the time. I’ve been chasing good health all my life. You may have heard the story. My dad had his first heart attack at 45 and that determined my outlook on the pursuit of good health. You’re finding all this in the sports pages for two reasons. One, the good folks at The Daily Times give me a lot of latitude in what I write about. I generally avoid religion and politics but if you read closely there might be an undercurrent of both in what I write about.

The other big reason is that I believe that active individuals are healthier individuals. And my job, if it is anything, is about helping folks be healthier. So I often talk about what it takes to be healthier.

Like eat better. Exercise daily. Stretch. See your Primary Care Physician for an annual physical. Follow up on your physical needs. Find health care providers that you can trust and then do what they ask you to do. Do what you know you should do. All the time. Not part of the time. That means turning off the TV. That means limiting their time on electronic devices. That little computer thingie that they sit and stare out for way too long (and in a neck posture that gives me the heebie jeebies)? Turn it off. Or at least limit the amount of time they’re staring at that thing every day.

But here’s the hard part: You just can’t send them outside and say “go play.” You’ve got to do it with them. And you’ve got to be a good role model so that means that you’ve got to live an active lifestyle yourself.

Look at it this way. You want to be your own kid’s role model. Why would you pass that job off to someone else? I’m not talking about creating little Joe’s and little Jennifer’s that are just like you. I’m talking about living good, healthy lives. Free of the health problems that come from a sedentary lifestyle.

But if you eat garbage all the time, your child is going to eat garbage and will probably continue to eat garbage their whole life. If you sit in front of a TV for hours on end, don’t be surprised when they stare at a computer screen just as long.

It is your responsibility as a parent to be a role model for your own children about living a healthy lifestyle. Show them the way. You may not accept the role but it belongs to you anyway. The old saying “do as I say do, don’t do as I do” doesn’t work. Never did.

We have an obesity epidemic in this country today. And especially in our state. Tennessee has the most childhood obesity in America. Thirty eight percent of our kids are obese or significantly overweight.

There are a lot of proposed solutions out there but the only thing that will really work is for their parents to take ownership of that problem.

In other words, it starts with you.

Email Joe Black at joeblackdpt@gmail.com

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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