Ping Pong or Table Tennis Vs Youth Obesity and Inactivity

It may sound like a lopsided TV wrestling bout, but it’s a serious fight we must win. The author has some important credentials and personal experience to offer on how to gain victory. Our opponents are fierce, ugly, and well entrenched in our country. Can a tiny ping pong ball compete against these monsters? Can a table tennis table compete with a dinner table? Let’s look closely at our competition first.

According to the science journal Lancet, we have a “childhood obesity epidemic”. The prevalence of overweight children and adolescents has increased dramatically over the past several decades bringing unprecedented incidence of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease to our children. As children become heavier worldwide, greater numbers become at risk of having Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) as adults says the New England Journal of Medicine. The culprits in this assault on our health are NOT hard to find.

Screen time, including watching television, surfing the internet and video gaming, has been associated with promoting inactivity which is linked to this rapid increase in obesity. How much screen time? According to the Henry Kaiser Foundation, children ages 8-18 spend about 1.5 hours on a computer, over an hour playing video games, 4.5 hours watching TV, and 7.5 hours on entertainment media…PER DAY! That’s just one of our grotesque opponents.

The good news is that “screen time” has made our lives easier in many ways. The bad is that “screen time” has robbed us of most of the exercise time we previously used to balance our food intake. That food intake has taken a turn for the ugly too hasn’t it?

For over three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American society. It began with a handful of modest hot dog and hamburger stands in Southern California, but has now spread to every corner of the nation. Fast food is now served at restaurants and drive-throughs, stadiums, airports, zoos, high schools, elementary schools, universities, cruise ships, trains and airplanes, at K-Marts, Wal-Marts, gas stations, and even at hospital cafeterias.

In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. Don’t even ask about 2010! Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. We spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music — COMBINED, says author Eric Schlosser.

Most of this food has high amounts of fat and sugar with little fiber, vitamins, or minerals. Our food market space is now dominated by processes food, which hides threatening levels of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Don’t forget that soft drinks and “rehydration” liquids are processed foods too. Robert Lustig, MD at UCSF says that the HFCS industry exerts enormous political power on our lawmakers.

On the other hand, SOME screen time is good for us. If you consume food and want to know what the sugar industry is up to, watch “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” on YouTube. Now enter the mighty, but tiny, ping pong ball!

Before the author became a sports medicine consultant, before he operated a tennis coaching business, even before he was a tennis player… he was a table tennis player. Just one of millions taking active shelter in the basement from Midwest snow. Before that, he was a less than fit target for the school bully. For that child, a little ping pong ball helped provide physical confidence, steer him away from a sedentary life style, and provide enormous after school FUN.

It is key that the first time you pick up a paddle or table tennis racket; you can easily have fun and feel skilled without coaching. Against a friend or family member of similar ability, you can even quickly rise to the self appointed title of “Menace”.

Compared to screen time, ping pong/table tennis is enormously beneficial exercise no matter how docile the game. Many tables even have a playback mode (remember Forrest Gump?), for a one-player work out. Here’s one more important word about our hefty opponents in this fight for our health.

Some researchers, like Dr. Alweena Zairi who study the causes of under performance in children, believe sedentary practices effect pre school neurological development and the academic potential of children by the time they start school. Teachers are finding they have to deal with a growing number of children suffering from numerous conditions born out of a childhood of conditioned inactivity.

Both table tennis and tennis are vastly popular international sports with professional tours which require tremendous athleticism and dedication. Tennis is almost always played outside. Table tennis almost always indoor and requires much less space. It’s also much less expensive to learn and enjoy than tennis. The entry level is vastly easier. Even better for the family, every parent can look like a “pro” and have a great time too.

Ping Pong or Table Tennis–Be a Menace!