We hear all the time that the kids of today eat too much of the wrong stuff and don't do enough exercise. And once they get overweight, they're even less likely to want to do any physical activity. Their self-esteem takes a dive, and where do they turn to for comfort?
Yes, you've guessed it ... FOOD! And more of the sugary stuff. Back to square one.
Of course those considerate folk in the fitness industry are only more than happy to help out and pull out all the stops with equipment that look more like toys than the real thing.
But should you get one for your child? It's only natural as a parent to want the best for your own and for less than a $100 you have a choice of rowers - plus many other types of equipment and fitness accessories.
I'm in two minds about rowing machine for children. I guess if you live in an apartment in a busy city it's not always easy for kids to find the space to be active - especially in winter. But is it the first thing on their list to Santa? Maybe if you already own a rower it's only natural for a child to want to have a go - and why not? Set a good example we're told. But should a young child whose bones are still developing spend time on such repetition of a limited range of movement?
I think not.
And would it become a chore to spend even just 10 minutes a day training on fitness equipment? I think so.
I remember as a kid getting bored quickly of any organized fitness activity. Star-jumps, press-ups or climbing up ropes left me numb. But give me a ball, a bit of space and half a dozen friends and I'd be playing for hours. And just think about the cardio-vascular benefits of all of that activity. Not to mention the benefits of running, jumping, twisting and turning for my balance and coordination reflexes. Plus having to learn to co-operate and compromise to referee a game with others.
And this is the main issue. Any sport is in my view better than formal exercise. Ten minutes of rowing could feel like half an hour of punishment for a reluctant child. Yet even a tennis ball and an indoor wall can provide much, much more benefit. Think of all the games you could invent - all challenging the vital systems for health and well-being.
So while a rowing machine offers excellent benefits for adults (and maybe an alternative for short session for a child) I really don't think they're a good idea for young children - by young I mean under 10.
As they get older you could introduce some fun by racing against each over set distances - see my other ideas on how to spice up your rowing workouts. But until then I think the repetition of the rowing technique isn't good for young bodies. Instead, look out for sports and athletics clubs. I believe any child will have the potential to excel at at least one activity. If you can help them find theirs, it will have a huge impact on their self-esteem, health and fitness. Once they've tasted the thrill of being able to do something well, they'll want to do more and take the right steps to get better.
And if you think this all sounds too good to be true, let me tell you a quick story.
I once knew a young lad of 10 who came along to my karate club. He was over-weight, ate a poor diet and reluctant to train. He was only there because his mother brought him along. Unfortunately, regardless of my efforts, it was obvious his heart wasn't in it and he soon left. Recently, I saw his mother again and I asked after her son. He's now 16 and after trying football, tennis and running, he finally discovered athletics (encouraged by the London 2012 Olympics) and found he was a natural at the discus. He's competing with some success and has taken an interest in eating properly, exercising and training. So he's fit and enjoying the thrills of competition and learning how to improve his performance - and who knows where that will take him.
What do you think?
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.