by Alexandria Durrell, owner of Clippo & founder of SoConnected

It’s a mad mad mad mad world, people. We sue beer companies for falsely advertising our ability to score a hot partner if we buy their product, we sue directors and blame movie studios for “making” us commit crimes, and we blame strollers for making our kids obese. Really, people? Really? 

I think it’s fairly easy to point the finger away from ourselves when dealing with a national epidemic like obesity. Let’s face it, we’d rather blame food companies for sneaking high-fructose corn syrup into, well, pretty much everything, than adjust our own habits (it doesn’t take long to read a label, folks). It’s easier to place blame than accept it, easier to find a single cause than to admit to a string of unhealthy choices. And blaming a stroller for a child’s obesity is just another ridiculous excuse.

In the recent CTV news piece about the issue, Sandra Martin, editor of Today’s Parent magazine said that “such studies should make parents think twice before they wheel their child around” while Dr. Freedhoff, an Ottawa-area “obesity expert” points out that stroller use is just one tiny part of a larger problem. On his blog, Weighty Measures, Dr. Freedhoff also points out the flaws in the recent study done on the correlation between childhood obesity and stroller use:

Never you mind that the study failed to include an objective measurement of activity in these kids to determine actual levels of physical activity, never you mind that we don’t have data on stroller use in the years before the rise of childhood obesity, never you mind that the calories burned even in active play for 1-5 year olds aren’t much to write home about, never you mind that studies on childhood obesity clearly suggest it’s not a problem of inactivity, and that in fact obesity leads to inactivity, not inactivity to obesity – none of those things matter because hey, childhood obesity’s always news.”

Yet still, people jumped at the chance to lay blame. And when I casually responded to a tweet sent out that mentioned “too large children riding in strollers”, it started a maelstrom. Parents immediately leapt to defend their own use of strollers, others pointed fingers at kids over three years of age riding in strollers, some pointed out that there were other factors involved, and some even (laughably) blamed the suburbs. What? No, seriously, what?

As with any problem, it would be fabulous if there was one simple solution, but come on… we all know we can’t blame stroller use for the rising number of obese kids in Canada (which, according to the Childhood Obesity Foundation is over 26% of children and youth…insane!), don’t we? When I asked for opinions on Twitter, here are some I received:

I feel that the composition of a child’s diet, activity level, sleep habits, and parental modelling all play significantly larger roles in determining whether a child becomes obese or at risk for obesity.”
(@KGaryDonald)

It makes me sad that money was spent on a study like this when it could have been spent on helping reduce obesity (for example subsidizing local farm fruits and vegetables perhaps).” (@cormiki)

We parents need to be educated on how much of  stroller time is good for a child and when it is absolutely necessary.” (@TNyPhotography)

So, no, it really isn’t the stroller making our kids look fat. It’s the sugary foods, high-fat snacking, sedentary lifestyles all put together that are contributing to the general obesity of our population. And if we spent more time in the backyard playing soccer than on Twitter defending our use of strollers in malls, well, maybe we’d see a difference.

Alexandria Durrell is a supermom to two delightful wee peeps by day (and night, who are we kidding?).  She started the popular kids’ accessories company Clippo.  Visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Author

Maria Lianos-Carbone is Publisher/Editor of amotherworld. Follow her on Twitter @amotherworld and @lifeandtravelca.

14 Comments

  1. i often wonder if people judge me when they see me out walking my 4 yr old twins in their stroller. That’s right! I do it! I do it for exercise, so if you see me with them it’s because I’m on a walk for exercise. A walk that they are too little to make themselves.
    This blog brings this website to mind… Toobigforstroller.com it appears to not exist anymore though! Too bad, it was actually pretty funny.

  2. I do it. In order for me to get excercise, I will put my girls in the stroller and walk 30 minutes to school. It’s unreasonable for me to expect my 4 and 2 year olds to make the walk but I need the excercise so I do it. If we are walking down the street to the store (10 mins) than the girls will walk.

    I think it’s all about moderation. Tomorrow I will be taking the girls to the zoo and I will be taking the stroller. Tonight we are off to soccer.

  3. Sometimes I think some parents just shove their kids in strollers so they can use the stroller door at popular attractions rather than having to wait in the line with all the other civilized people (including other parents who actually aim to teach their children how to be good, kind, fair people rather than trying to get through life by cheating). That irks me. (I witnessed this to great extremes a couple weekends ago in Chicago.)

    And while childhood obesity is obviously a big problem not only from health, but self-esteem and socialization perspectives, judging a parent for one aspect of their parenting (in most cases) is about as useful as passing judgment on a digital image while looking at only one pixel. Forest for the (broccoli) trees, people!

  4. I wholeheartly agree its the diet that makes children obese. AND agree with the doctor Obesity leads to inactive children NOT the other way around.

    I also use my stroller for exercise. WHEN I squeeze that 10min walk to school YES if I walked with my kids it would be more like 15-20. BUT at a snails pace NO EXERCISE THERE. So I strap the little one in (over 2 but hey) then I get the 4 year old on the BACK of the sit and stand and the 5.5 can at least keep up to some degree.

    The stroller is my life support as well. 3 kids under 6 ITS a mall saver. NEVER worry that a child has wondered away. WHY! 2 are right in my view and the first one is always talking and walking with me.

    Thanks for the great write up

  5. I use a stroller. Mind you, he’s only 18 months old, not for my six year old. 18 month old is busy, and non stop, and If we’re going somewhere, walking on the sidewalks of busy streets, it’s just not safe. When he’s older, he’ll walk. Our usual walk is around 2km, and that’s too much for little legs. When we were in Disney, I did however get a dbl stroller. Disney is 9 hours of constant walking and standing in line, and even my 6 year old (then 5) got very tired and needed to rest on occasion.

    Strollers don’t cause obesity, sugar, pop, chips, snacks and not playing outdoors does.

  6. I’ll admit that it irks me when children over the age of 3 are shoved into strollers. I understand for extended trips to places like Disney World/Land or NYC, but when a child’s legs are almost touching the ground in a stroller,it’s time to teach them what their limbs are for and take a family walk. I am overweight, but my children are not. My now 6 year old daughter has always been tall for her age, and for that reason (and because of independent streak), she stopped using a stroller when she was about 2 years old. We had a double stroller for her younger brother, but she always preferred to walk alongside. We’d pick her up if she got tired, Daddy would give carry her on his shoulders, or we would simply sit on a bench, take in the scenery, etc., until she was raring to go again. I agree that obesity is NOT caused by using a stroller, but I do think it’s kind of silly to have an older child crammed into a seat just so mama can get exercise. Walking as a family can be awesome! Now I need to take my advice more often and get to walking…

  7. Nice last line. : ) I think some of this ruckus makes us look like fatheads….
    Like you said, we should get out from behind the keyboards, go play with the kids — maybe even do a little gardening with them, pull up some carrots, show they how to wash them off and eat them for a snack.

  8. The time has actually come for us to defend the fact that we use strollers?!! My little guy is 4 years old. I use the stroller a) to carry all the stuff I buy at the mall b) so he can sit when he’s tired from walking. A study like this is such a waste of time…. really, I think it’s just to get conversations and arguments going. Kids don’t sit in strollers all day so how can it be possible they get obese from that!!!!!?

  9. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone. It’s fascinating that there’s always money for studies of this nature, isn’t it? I, too, feel like it’s money wasted. There are so many factors involved in childhood obesity, but everyone seeks a magical solution, right?

  10. Great post, Alex. My three year old definitely weighs more than most children his age, and I do closely monitor what he eats. Mostly, it’s healthy foods, but I also don’t have very strict rules about him eating chocolate (and usually, it’s like a piece of two…) He does use his stroller if we’re out for a LONG time – like in Maine, we were constantly walking around, so I had it with us, and he’d go in it when he got tired. What bothers me is when I get ‘looks’ from other people. That is hurtful, because as a mom, I will NEVER judge other moms. And… he is only three, he just looks bigger than your average three year old!

  11. It’s so unfair for people to judge at a glance, isn’t it, Loukia? That’s a whole other can of worms… parental judgement. I’ll tackle that another time! 😉

  12. Great post! The concept made me laugh, I have to say. Diet is what makes kids obese, not excessive stroller use. Unbelievable. If you’re feeding your kid french fries everyday, stroller or not, what the hell do you think is going to happen?

  13. Children will only eat junk IF their parent allows it. That’s why they need parents. Teach them to eat good, healthy foods; lots of vegetables & fruits. They need to learn PORTION CONTROL also & it’s up to you to teach that. That old concept of clean your plate isn’t working. They can ‘clean their plate’ as long as their plate isn’t overstuffed! Even too much of a good thing can be bad. Kids need to get off their duff and outside and actively play. Cartoons, tv games, hand-held games, & computer should be kept to a minimum. I don’t see a problem with kids in strollers if you are exercising; little legs can’t keep up the pace you need. I also agree that strollers at amusement parks are a necessity. Little legs not only get tired easier, but big people will walk all over them. However, on a walk around the block, etc. they need to be out of that stroller & walking along with you. They need exercise too. And to Loukia: people are rude by staring, but your 3 year old needs to look like a 3 year old. You need to say no to the chocolates & push the broccoli.

  14. Our 4-y-o uses his stroller pretty regularly. We don’t own a car and walk pretty much everywhere we go, unless we’re on a bus. Personally, I would feel like a much worse parent if I forced my little one (who has asthma) to walk a half-hour to 45 minutes to the grocery store in 40-degree humidity–or in -30 degree windchill, for that matter. He’ll usually walk partway and then ride the rest. I also use the stroller as a shopping cart. Those who dare to judge me can shove it.

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