The most common form of cancer is skin cancer, the doctors told us. Exposure to the sun is therefore dangerous, they said.
So we brought our children indoors. Now a new study tells us children are facing significant health risks from lack of vitamin D, which is produced in part by exposure to the sun.
Once our children were brought indoors, out of the sun, their overall level of physical activity declined. Not surprisingly, they also got fat.
In response, we need more physical education in school, the experts told us.
And now yet another study shows that injuries to children during physical education classes have risen 150 percent during the past few years.
These studies should prompt action two ways:
First, we should shut off the television and shove our fat, pale, blinking children out into the sunshine, at least for a few hours each week.
Second, we ought to figure out just who the heck pays for all these studies providing information that the average fifth-grader could tell us.
Like dad, like son
There were a lot of fifth-graders - and other grades, too - at Saturday's Columbia County Back to School Festival at Evans Middle School. Watching the steady stream of humanity waddle through the doors gives little reason to doubt that entirely too many children are, indeed, overweight.
And it's also obvious that they are merely rotund reflections of their portly parents.
The festival provides plenty of opportunities for those parents to enroll their children in activities that could improve their health. With everything from martial arts and dance studios to cheerleading squads represented, there was some avenue for organized physical activity available for every student to check out.
In the end, though, there's no substitute for just running around outside and playing, and it seems not enough children do that any more.
What happened? How many of us remember that when we were kids, we stayed outside all day long - coming inside only for lunch or supper, and then only reluctantly?
Boys didn't even come inside for bathroom breaks. And if we wanted something to drink, that's what water hoses were for. (Out in Winfield, we'd also been known to dig up a turnip root if we got hungry. Somehow I don't see myself doing that again.)
If we're wondering how we went from unorganized outdoor recreation to indoor indolence, I'm sure we can blame a lot of it not just on television, but on machines that hook up to televisions (like video games) and on machines that look like televisions (computers).
But I doubt we can realistically blame much of it on nanny state fright-mongering that makes parents worry about their children being out in the sun too much.
After all: The same nanny state fright-mongering has warned parents about letting their kids plop in front of the TV and eat too much, too, yet that doesn't seen to have stopped us from cultivating a generation filled with inactive little porkers.
I wonder how many of those PE injuries are from strain on ankles and knees from overweight children trying to run? Maybe we ought to do a study.
I've been heartened and humbled by the response to my request for donations of money and books for our neighbors at the struggling Lincoln County Library.
Karen Williams of Appling, and Thad and Sue Cottingham of Grovetown, brought boxes of books Monday, and co-worker Valerie Rowell brought a big box on Tuesday. Others have called or e-mailed to let me know more books are coming.
I'm planning to drive over next Wednesday and will take along any donations.
You can also mail a check to the Lincoln County Library, P.O. Box 310, Lincolnton, Ga., 30817.
Thank you, very much.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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