Childhood obesity - what can we do
Another day, another headline related to obesity:
“Diabetes could 'bankrupt the NHS' after 60% rise in number of cases, charity warns” The Independent, 17 August 2015
According to a new analysis of official NHS data by Diabetes UK, there are now more than 3.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK, an increase of more than 1.2 million (60%) in the past 10 years. Of course more may be undiagnosed.
The charity says that: “poorly managed diabetes can lead to devastating and expensive health complications such as kidney disease, stroke and amputation” (see our blog on Personal Training – Diabetes and Obesity and diabetes).
The “global epidemic” of obesity
But diabetes is only one element of a wider problem. The World Health Organisation has described obesity as a “global epidemic” affecting all ages. In the UK there are approximately one million children (under 16s) who could be classed as obese.
Heath consequences of childhood obesity can be devastating, leading to:
- Increased risk of certain cancers
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Sleep apnoea
and many other life-threatening or life-limiting conditions.
According to the Health & Social Care Information Centre (www.hscic.gov.uk), almost 10% of children are clinically obese when they start school and three in 10 children aged two to 15 were classed as either overweight or obese (2011-2012 figures).
Is my child obese?
Obesity can be measured using a simple height-to-weight comparison or waist circumference (see our blogs on Body Mass Index (BMI) and Hip-to-waist ratio). If in doubt, visit your GP or a trained professional such as a qualified fitness instructor.
What can we do about childhood obesity?
Unless a child is suffering from a specific health condition, obesity is most likely caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. As adults, we share a responsibility for the health of our children and should be leading by example.
A few simple ways that adults can encourage children to be healthier:
- Plan outdoor family activities at weekends and during the summer holidays, such as walking and cycling or games in the park.
- Enrol children into activity clubs, sports teams and other groups that include physical exercise.
- If possible, get them to walk to school rather than going by car.
- Try out healthy recipes with your children and get them involved in cooking and baking.
- Get expert help – ask for advice from trained professionals such as your GP, dieticians, gym instructors and personal trainers.
Personal training for children and adolescents
Whether you’re a fitness instructor, a gym teacher, a sports coach or simply a concerned parent, it’s important to be aware of the physical, mental and emotional development of children and adolescents when planning fitness activities (see our blog on Gym instruction for adolescents).
Overweight children may suffer from high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and joint issues, so they should undergo a full fitness assessment before embarking on a training session. Nutritional advice should also come from trained professionals.
On the other end of the spectrum, very active children can also develop injuries and conditions that need to be taken seriously, especially as their bodies are still growing and developing.
If you’re worried about your children’s weight, take advantage of the summer holidays for outdoor activities but also put in place long-term changes to their diet and exercise routine to improve their lifelong fitness and health.