Startling new figures have revealed that childhood obesity rates have increased slightly over the past year. The number of 10 and 11 year olds classed as obese has risen from 19.8% from 19.1%. Though this is only a small increase, the figures are still a cause for concern as they go against expectations that the rates were no longer on the rise. These figures serve as a reminder that more needs to be done to help our children live healthier lifestyles to lower their risk of developing serious health conditions later on.
What the figures mean
The data was collected through the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). It is the second year that the figures have risen within the 10 to 11 age group. The level of childhood obesity amongst four and five year olds has also risen from 9.1% to 9.3%. While the figures may not seem a significant increase, the fact that there has been an increase at all shows that existing schemes aiming to tackle obesity amongst children aren’t enough. When the government published its strategy for childhood obesity, many health officials were critical of its content, believing more can be done to restrict junk food advertising.
One of the measures proposed included a ‘sugar tax’ – a levy on sugary drinks, which are said to be the highest source of sugar intake for teenagers. The tax could raise as much as £520m a year, which will be invested in sport for primary schools in a bid to increase activity levels amongst children.
What you can do to help
Research undertaken by University College London showed that half of seven year olds do not do enough exercise, with girls found to be less active than boys. The recommended activity guidelines for children suggest they need to do at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, ranging from moderate activity such as playground activities to more vigorous exercise such as running and sports. They should also complete some form of strength building activity three days a week in order to build strong bones and muscles.
If your child is particularly inactive, it’s important that you work to change their routine and encourage them to do more exercise. This can either be done through encouraging them to take part in sports or classes such as dancing or gymnastics, or by doing things as a family. Going for a walk each day before or after dinner is a great way to spend time together and form some good habits. If you can manage some errands without the use of a car, you could do this together as a family as well (which is also good for the environment).
Whilst spending time in front of the TV or a computer is a good way for children to relax after school, it’s important that they spend some time away from them too. You could limit the use of TV and PCs until a certain time of the evening, making sure that they complete different activities as well as their homework.
Encourage healthy eating to tackle childhood obesity
Evaluating the eating habits of your family is important to identify areas where you can cut down and eat better as a family. Cutting down portion sizes and ensuring young children have smaller portions can make a big difference. Make sure that side dishes involve vegetables and grains as opposed to bread and high fat items such as chips – they will fill you up and provide you with the right nutrients whilst keeping the sugar and fat content down.
Just as it is difficult for ourselves, it can be very difficult to encourage children to form new habits to combat childhood obesity. Setting new rules and encouraging lifestyle changes may sound tough, but it’s important to make them in order to encourage healthier living for you and your family. Doing it together will make it seem like less work as you’ll be sharing the journey with each other. Doing it now will ensure your children adopt healthier habits they’ll take with them when they leave home.
For more information about eating healthily, as well as some great meal ideas you can make and enjoy as a family, visit the Healthy Eating pages of the NHS Choices website.