Today I discovered Walk, a new Tumblr site sharing photos of kids in strollers who are too old to be using strollers. The sentiment behind the site seems to be that kids who are old enough to walk should walk. The friend who posted it on Facebook wrote “Seriously, if your kid can walk without falling, your kid should walk without falling.” I can see how some might be annoyed by the sight of 7-11 year old squeezed into a stroller, but Walk is perhaps saying more than was intended.
As I looked through the photos, I couldn’t help but notice that a fair few of the kids in strollers were overweight. Considering that childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., this may not be coincidence. According to the CDC, rates of childhood obesity have more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. Childhood obesity is a serious problem because it sets kids up for a lifetime of chronic illness and health issues. It also makes kids more susceptible to bullying and fat-shaming from their peers and society at large. While the causes of childhood obesity are multifaceted and complex, one is undoubtedly a lack of physical activity.
I strongly believe that when it comes to obesity, it is unfair to put all the blame on the individual. Our society promotes and condones unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyles in a number of ways: the fast food industry, an economy based on office jobs, car-based societies, corn subsidies, food deserts, etc. For those who are low-income, a healthy lifestyle is almost impossible considering the lack of access to safe public recreation spaces, lack of leisure time, and high costs of fresh, healthy foods.
Perhaps another way that our culture unknowingly reinforces unhealthy behaviors is through “stroller culture.” Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything inherently bad about strollers (like Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s character in Away We Go), but that perhaps we use them too often and for too long. Looking at some of the images on Walk, it seems that might be the case. What are we teaching our school-aged children when we don’t expect them to walk alongside us? If anything, we’re reinforcing the idea that walking from the parking lot to the store is an imposition, or that physical activity is separate from the experience of living every day – something we only experience at the gym or playing sports.
My mother came out to Boston to visit on Mother’s Day. We were heading from my apartment in “Camberville” into the city, and I suggested that we could avoid the 18 minute walk to the T stop by taking a bus. She gave me a lecture on how walking was part of the urban experience and part of a healthy lifestyle. At age 25, is my mom still pushing me out of the stroller?
I’m wary that Tumblr sites like this can often become places for fat-shaming (like People of Walmart) and I would hate for this to happen with Walk. Still, it is a reminder that walking is part of a healthy lifestyle for kids as well as adults.