India has second highest number of obese children in world, after China: Study

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reveals that India has the second highest number of obese children in the world, after China. Among the 20 most populous countries studied, China and India had the highest numbers of obese children.

“The rate at which obesity is growing in children is quite alarming as it means we will be faced with a large number of obese adults, prone to non-communicable

diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even certain types of cancer,” said Dr VK Bahl, head of cardiology department at AIIMS.

Most School Going Children in India are overweight, unfit and prone to Diabetes

A recent study conducted by a physical education company reveals that most school going children in India are unfit, overweight and prone to diabetes. And it has got nothing to do with any specific age group, gender, or location within India. It’s a nationwide observation.

The fitness and body mass index (BMI) levels of school children in India — regardless of age, gender, region or city — continues to be unhealthy. Lack of physical activity increases the risk of obesity and health-related problems in adolescence, and adulthood.

Study reveals that only those schools which had more than three sessions of physical education had fitter children. Schools with structured sports and physical education sessions showed improved children’s fitness. Active children also have greater attention spans and perform better academically.

While our lives have becoming faster, with everything available on our fingertips, our bodies have become slow and sluggish. Children avoid traditional and fresh foods and enjoy more of packaged and processed foods.

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The biggest problem with our food choices is that junk food is everywhere, it’s easily available to order on our mobile phones, and our favourite celebrities coax us into eating it; several schools have also become marketing avenues for junk food.

Junk food companies targets children by hiring role models as brand ambassadors, giving free gifts, toys etc. with food items and by projecting junk food as healthy food items. Research shows that children are more likely to want to experience what they see in advertisements. India could learn from countries like the UK and Ireland who have banned celebrities from endorsing of unhealthy foods.

The study covered thousands of children in the age group of 7-17 years in 68 cities and 17 states in India. Several parameters were measured including anaerobic capacity, flexibility, lower and upper body strength, abdominal strength and Body Mass Index (BMI).

A surprise observation was that girls had better (marginally) BMI scores compared to boys. Girls scored lower than boys in fitness parameters such as anaerobic capacity, flexibility, upper body strength and abdominal strength (although girls had marginally better BMI scores compared to boys), which suggests that girls lag behind when it comes to overall fitness.

As expected, children in non-metros performed marginally better than their counterparts in the six metro cities on most of the fitness parameters. This is because of better weather, better sporting facilities and a better lifestyle.

Another interesting observation was that even though awareness about fitness is seeing an upward trend, it is not translating into better fitness levels in children. Reduced physical activity, unhealthy food eating patterns and virtual gaming, are some of the major causes for this.

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Children across the country showed an alarming lack of fitness, and the primary causes are:

  1. Sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits and little or no play.
  2. Most schools still concerned about good grades, and not physical education
  3. Children prefer watching cartoons on TV, or playing games, or playing cricket in the small lanes where you don’t have to do much running
  4. Most parents encourage fast food as they themselves are too busy to cook or prefer eating out frequently

Do you know that the National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NAPSE) in United States, recommends that a child should play for one hour a day?

Obviously, this holds true for Indian children too.

And its not only for the parents to ensure this happens, even schools should have at least three physical education periods in a week.

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