Arts & Life | Entertainment News

Today, I'm on my high horse


Monday, November 08, 2004

Spinning instructor Steve Prud'homme
leads a class at the Atwater Club,
where a spinathon will be held Nov. 21.
Tina Kader, doctor, mom and champion marathoner, makes her children walk to school, which they used to do only reluctantly. No other parents made their children walk, they said, but Kader would not be swayed.

"One spring morning about two years ago, when my son was 9, he said, 'You know, Mummy? I realize you're not normal,' " she says.

And that's the truth. Call it the curse of sedentary lifestyles, of sitting for hours on end in front of computers and doing less exercise, of eating fast food and sugary snacks, but Kader's family is the exception in a world where kids - our kids - are getting fatter.

Last year, Statistics Canada reported that 37 per cent of Canadian children age 2 to 11 are overweight, with half that number considered obese.

And a McGill University study linked an increase in high blood pressure to the growing rate of obesity in children and teenagers in Quebec, thus placing them at risk for developing Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and heart disease before they even graduate from high school.

Only last month in Quebec City, an international conference on diabetes was told that children are 14 times more likely to develop the adult-onset form of the disease if their mothers suffer from it.

It's downright scary, and it threatens to turn into a full-blown epidemic, says Steven Grover, an epidemiologist at Montreal General Hospital. To combat it, he and about 200 others, including health-care professionals, physiotherapists, recovered patients and, yes, yours truly, are taking to stationary bicycles on Nov. 21 and spinning to raise money for a pilot exercise and lifestyle program for kids at risk.

The spinathon is being held under the auspices of the Cardiovascular Health Improvement Program, which is headquartered at the Atwater Club and is affiliated with McGill's teaching hospitals.

"Most of the people who come through CHIP are adults, 25 years and older," Grover says. "We want to raise the alarm, raise the awareness and get them earlier."

He continues that while there's a need for a preventive initiative like this, there's no provincial money to fund it. (Quebec doesn't even pay for rehab for people who've already suffered heart attacks, for example, so adult CHIP patients must pay $750 out of their own pockets for an intensive 12-week, 36-session program.)

Thus the reason for the spinathon, and while I'm not exactly raring to get up early on a Sunday to sweat my buns off (and get a sore butt), I'm going to do it. I urge you to do it, too, or chip in with a pledge for someone who is.

Oh, I know I don't get on my high horse too often, but trust me on this one - as a former stroke patient who knows what it's like to feel absolutely helpless, I'm telling you that you don't want your sons and daughters suffering from conditions that will permanently affect their lives without trying to do something about it.

It's said that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, a cliche that still holds true, especially in this case, where the idea is to get to kids while they're still at risk, not already suffering.

And Grover knows that other cliche, that old habits die hard, is just as true.

"In many cases, the parents know there's a problem, but getting your children to change their behaviour is no small feat," he says. "I've got four boys, for example, and they're supposed to walk to school, except that they know the key corners to get lifts."

Which brings me back to Kader, the abnormal mom and doctor who happens to treat diabetics for a living. "The way our lives are structured, with getting to work on time and so on, it's hard, but we should try to fit in activity with our kids," she says. "If we want them to be active, we have to be role models."

"Exercise," she continues, "is really the key to prevention of diabetes, and to prevent hypertension and (high) cholesterol. It's simply the best."

© Copyright 2004 Montreal Gazette