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Childhood obesity study emphasises importance of exercise for young and old

Childhood obesity study emphasises importance of exercise for young and old
April 27, 2015

Children who have more than two hours screen-time a day and children who frequently eat dinner in front of the TV are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a newly published report from VicHealth.

The research, conducted by Associate Professor Anna Timperio from the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University, focuses on understanding the factors which lead to children becoming overweight or obese.

With almost one in four Australian children overweight or obese and one in three expected to be by 2025, Influencing Children’s Health: Critical Windows for Intervention looks at the key moments for developing healthy habits in children and adolescents.

Commenting on the findings, VicHealth Chief Executive Jerril Rechter said some of the key risk factors that may lead to Australian children becoming overweight or obese are inadequate fruit and vegetable intake and lack of physical activity.

Rechter explained “children often eat less than the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables (and) only one in five get the recommended hour of physical activity every day, and fewer than one in three meets the recommendation for daily screen time limits.

“This report reveals that over-use of electronic devices such as televisions, computers and electronic gaming consoles are linked to negative health consequences for children.

“In disadvantaged communities, having a TV in a child’s room and using it as a reward has been linked with children being more overweight.

“Children who are obese are more likely than other children to develop asthma, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and some cancers. Kids who are overweight are more likely to carry their excess weight into adulthood, placing them at increased risk of chronic diseases.

“They may also be subjected to discrimination and bullying, which can harm their mental wellbeing.”

Associate Professor Timperio said that while many parents are concerned about the amount of time their children spend watching TV their parenting strategies are sometimes inconsistent with their concerns.

She explained “for example, parents might allow children to eat in front of the TV or use screen-time as a reward for good behaviour. These strategies are likely to be counter-productive if they are trying to reduce screen-time.”

She added that important transitions in a child’s life can present opportunities for maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, stating “as children move from primary to secondary school they’re less likely to be physically active during lunch and recess, outside school hours, and on weekends.

“Children spend a significant amount of their time at school, so school is an important setting in which to tackle declines in physical activity as they move from primary to

secondary school. But there is also much to be done outside of schools. As children move into adolescence, opportunities for active transport through walking, riding, or skating to school, to public transport and other places increases.”

Rechter said healthy eating and daily activity should be considered an essential part of a healthy lifestyle for all children and adolescents and suggested parents include some of the following in their daily routines:

1. Keep TVs and other electronic entertainment devices in communal family areas rather than in children’s bedrooms
2. Turn the TV off before family dinners and eat family meals together daily
3. Introduce rules regarding children’s screen time, e.g. not during meals, set TV-free times
4. Involve children in providing family meals including meal planning, shopping and food preparation 
5. Use rewards other than unhealthy foods or screen-based entertainment to promote good behaviour
6. Eat breakfast – this research shows children are more likely to eat the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetable if their parents eat breakfast
7. Encourage physical activity, e.g. keep sporting equipment near the back door rather than packed away in cupboards
8. Model healthy lifestyle behaviours and support children’s physical activity; encourage children to choose a physical activity they enjoy
9. Use active transport such as walking or riding whenever possible, e.g. short trips to buy milk, walking or cycling to school
10. Support children’s independent play and travel; encourage children to have unstructured physical activity and play alongside organised physical activity and sport

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has backed the report’s findings, with APA Chief Executive Cris Massis, stating “physiotherapists with their education, training and competence in behavior-change, biomechanics and therapeutic exercise are ideally suited to identify, manage and prevent obesity.

“They can develop a program of exercise to increase physical activity safely and effectively for patients at risk of becoming overweight or obese, as well as for people already managing obesity-related illness.

“The APA’s new Australia’s Biggest Killer campaign aims to get Australians off the couch – to get moving, embrace a healthy, active lifestyle, and to see their physiotherapist if they need help with motivation or finding the appropriate level and type of physical activity.”

Click here to view Influencing Children’s Health: Critical Windows for Intervention.

Images courtesy of Parks Victoria (top) and Les Mills (below).

9th April 2015 - NEW MOVEMENT AIMS TO GET CHILDREN PLAYING OUTSIDE

22nd February 2015 - VICHEALTH URGES SPORT HATERS TO DANCE FOR WELLNESS

2nd February 2015 - AUSTRALIAN YOUNGSTERS ‘CAN’T THROW, CAN’T CATCH’

4th August 2014 - VICHEALTH LOOKS FOR NEW IDEAS TO GET MORE VICTORIANS PHYSICALLY ACTIVE


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