Are Your Children Getting Enough Exercise?

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Children should be exercising for one hour per day to prevent obesity, urges medical expert.

As highlighted in recent news, Public Health England (PHE) has issued a warning that children are consuming half their daily sugar allowance before they even start school. According to the PHE’s Change4Life campaign, breakfasts have become so unhealthy that pupils eat the equivalent of three cubes (11g) of sugar every morning for breakfast.

Following on from this story and should you be considering expertise for forthcoming features on the same topic, we have secured commentary with Sports and Exercise Medicine Physician at Highgate Private Hospital, Dr James Thing. His comments highlight how important it is to set a good example as a parent to prevent obesity progressing into adult life and that children should get at least one hour of exercise per day.

1. Do you feel that childhood diet and lifestyle is a contributing factor to adult obesity?

There is no doubt that the eating habits that one develops as a child will, more often than not, be continued into adulthood. It is essential for children to learn what a good diet consists of from an early age. There is good evidence to suggest that obese children are much more likely to go on to become obese adults.

2. Do you feel parents should intervene within their child’s diet and lifestyle more proactively to prevent problems later on?

Absolutely, it is often hard for parents to be told, usually by teachers, that their child is overweight or obese. The usual reaction is anger and denial however parents have an essential role in preventing and controlling poor eating and lifestyle habits. Parents often feel that these lessons should be learnt at school however a child will learn best by following a good example that must be set by the parents, at home.

3. What do you think about the government’s idea to bring in a sugar tax from April 2018? Do you think putting up the price of sugary soft drinks will help parents and children from buying them?

This is a controversial idea and one which is being strongly opposed by the multi-billion dollar drink/fast food industry. Childhood obesity rates are continuing to increase and so extreme measures are required. Ultimately if £1 of pocket money buys less sugar then this tax will have its intended benefits.

4. It appears that the vast majority of parents are unsure what a healthy breakfast consists of. Can you recommend what a healthy breakfast is?

A healthy meal traditionally has been thought of as containing carbohydrate, fat and protein. More recently this notion is being questioned, with greater emphasis on fats and a reduction in carbohydrates. A healthy breakfast may include porridge, wholemeal/brown bread/toast with peanut butter or an egg for protein, greek yoghurt and berries. High sugar cereals, pastries, biscuit bars, chocolate, cakes and sugary drinks should be avoided (but are often seen in the hands of children on the bus to school across the UK).

5. What are the positive health outcomes of eating a healthy breakfast?

A healthy breakfast should leave the individual feeling energised and not tired or bloated. Eating breakfast has been shown to improve performance and concentration at school. Delaying or avoiding breakfast is likely to lead to mid-morning tiredness, hunger, and therefore snacking, usually on sugary foods or overeating at lunchtime. Ample hydration (with water) is essential. Fruit drinks may compound a “high sugar” intake.

6. Apart from campaigns aimed at promoting healthy changes how can we change the way people shop, cook and eat?

Education is imperative. Learning about a healthy diet from an early age will lead to short and long-term improvements in eating habits and reduce obesity in the population. Celebrity Chef’s such as Jamie Oliver have tried to instil in people that healthy eating can be quick, simple and cost effective. These processes can be facilitated by making healthy foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables more affordable, and sugary “bad foods” less accessible, potentially in the form of a sugar tax. Effective neighbourhood planning can also support this by avoiding having shops/fast food restaurants nearby schools.

7. Active campaigns like Northern Ireland’s Get a life campaign aims more at persuading people to do more physical exercise. How important is physical exercise and how much exercise should children do a day?

Physical activity is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for any individual, young or old. In order to lead a healthy lifestyle it is essential to be physically active. Large, long-term research studies have clearly. demonstrated the importance of physical fitness as a risk factor for morbidity (illness) and mortality (death). Individuals who are active in their younger years are more likely to be active throughout their life. Children under 5 should undertake 180 minutes of physical activity per day. Children aged between 5 and 18 should undertake 60mins per day of physical activity that includes moderate and vigorous activity, as well as activities that strengthen muscles and bones.

Images taken from Flickr

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