Myopia. Fatty liver. Lumbago. High blood pressure due to obesity. Skeletal problems.
Yes, as the petals are plucked from our flower of youth, these are among the multitude of complaints of encroaching middle age. The problem, says Spa (Sept 20-27), is that they're occurring with increasing frequency among young children.
Today's kids, it seems, have been hit by a double whammy. The first is the ongoing march of digitalization; the second, two and a half years of forced stay-ins due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, children's physical development has become stunted.
"Over the past three months, more than half the injuries incurred by kids at our school have been bone fractures," an elementary school teacher in metropolitan Tokyo tells the magazine.
A childcare worker observed, "The other day, a little girl on her way to kindergarten who had become obese due to coronavirus restrictions stumbled and fell. She suffered an avulsion fracture."
Dr Shohiro Hayashi, head of an orthopedic clinic in Saitama City and director of the "Stop the Locomo" conference, said he had observed an increase in locomotive disorders such as joint pain and difficulty in walking -- typically found in the elderly -- among children from around 10 years ago.
"A survey of Saitama schoolchildren found that indications of encroaching locomotive syndrome were observed in some 40% of the subjects. The coronavirus pandemic has aggravated this situation. Over the past half century, the number of children who fall and suffer fractures has more than doubled," he said.
Recently Dr Hayashi treated a 5-year-old patient for lumbago.
"Kids sit hunched over, tapping on their smartphones, causing them to develop a stooped posture with their jaws thrust outward. Poor posture habits like these have been a major factor in locomotive syndrome among children," he noted.
While one hour a day of physical activity is considered desirable, even when that's not possible problems can be avoided by nurturing proper posture.
Yet another problem has been deteriorating vision.
"Before entry into primary school, my son was found to have severe myopia. The eyeglasses he wears look like the bottoms of cola bottles," the father of a boy in second grade tells the magazine.
The boy's ophthalmologist had recommended the time he spent on a tablet computer be drastically reduced as without early countermeasures he might risk developing glaucoma later in life.
More children are also developing symptoms resembling presbyopia, difficulty in viewing small items close up, as is usually seen from middle age.
"Staring at a smartphone screen causes them to blink less frequently and they develop dry eye. We are seeing a rise in cases of sumahon rogan (smartphone presbyopia) from early ages," says Edogawa-ku based physician Rui Hiramatsu.
"Health ministry data indicates the number of children with vision tested at below 1.0 (the level that usually requires corrective lenses) has been rising year by year," he added. "Among middle-school students, that figure has reached 60%."
To protect children's vision, Hiramatsu recommends children take a break after every 30 minutes of smartphone use, and "ideally" spend two hours a day out-of-doors.
Locomotion and eyesight are by no means the only concerns.
"When conducting free-of-charge physical exams for children, in about half the cases, we have found fatty liver at levels like men in their 40s, said Yokohama-based gastrointestinal specialist Tsuyoshi Sogo. "This will make them vulnerable to various liver problems and hardening of the arteries. I have also treated a child in his early teens for gout."
Sogo's advice is to force kids to get off their butts and move, or risk an early onset of the ravages of middle age.
"Proactive steps should include improving of their basic diet and sufficient exercise," he recommends. "As a rule of thumb, I suppose they should walk the equivalent of 20,000 paces per day."© Japan Today