In the past fifty years since I grew up, attitudes towards sports and games and exercise have completely changed in the UK. Successive governments have sold off nearly half of our state schools' playing fields – that's well over ten thousand – and they are still doing it! This is an exclamation mark loaded with incredulity at the sheer brainlessness of our elected leaders.
It's reckoned that in the UK just under 20% of our ten to eleven year olds are obese – that's not just fat, that's dangerously fat, life threateningly fat – and a further 14% are overweight, which adds up to one in three eleven year old children being fat. By the time they reach adulthood, the figures are even worse. The UK has the highest level of obesity in Europe with 25% of adults being obese and a further 40% being just fat, which means that two in three of us are fat or dangerously fat. (I suppose this is better than the US where two in three adults are all obese.) Strangely there is a lot of fuss right now about how there is too much sugar in food and drink, and too much saturated fat in processed foods. I say 'strangely' because in the 1960s we were eating the same amount of fat and sugar, although certainly not as much processed food and drink, yet less than 2% of adults were obese. In those days, however, we were taking a lot more exercise.
Since 1960 the average weight of an adult woman has risen from eight and a half to eleven stone, a two and a half stone increase, and for men it has risen from ten stone to thirteen, a three stone increase. So in 2016 women are a third heavier than they were in 1960, and men a quarter heavier.
To cut a long rant short this equates to sixty thousand metric tons of lipid fat attached to human beings in the UK. Lipids are the flammable compounds, making up 87% of adipose or human fat. This stuff could be harvested by some kind of vacuum device and would be far more useful powering the heating systems in our hospitals. This in turn would save a shed load of money, which could be used to provide more beds and nursing staff to look after all the fat people who have progressed to diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and cancer, problem conditions and diseases caused in the main by being too fat.
Of course the rational answer is to bring children up playing games that involve running around chasing a ball or each other on a grass playing field or in a gym. The alternative, which has become the norm, is to sit them down in front of a TV screen playing games with just their thumbs and feed them an oversized pizza washed down with the equivalent of nine tea spoonfuls of fizzy, liquefied sugar (corn syrup) . Both of these alternatives become life forming habits that can be inculcated at a very early age, but go down the route of the second one at your peril.
Today in the UK it's compulsory for primary school children to do at least seventy five minutes PE a week. This is not nearly enough and many schools are happy to increase the time, but by doing so they bite into the academic timetable. Academic standards, however, do not appear to have dropped, and there is considerable evidence that exercise stimulates the brain and to an extent prevents the psychological afflictions that affect so many children today. So the unscientific conclusion is that exercise stops you going mad and keeps you thin.