SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE, FAT KIDS

Too much study puts children at risk of obesity

Ministry requires physical activity but PE lessons are routinely converted into class sessions

In Summary

• Study is based on data reported by 3,428 adolescents aged 11 to 16, mostly in primary and high schools in Kenya.

• WHO says this inactivity compromises children's health, recommends at least one hour of physical activity per day. 

Children are largely in class and lack enough time for physical activity
NO MORE PE: Children are largely in class and lack enough time for physical activity
Image: FILE

The quest for good grades is creating fat Kenyan children because they hardly exercise, the WHO has warned. 

The World Health Organization says the most affected are school girls, 88.9 per cent of whom lack adequate exercise worldwide. 

Boys are slightly better off, but still, 84.9 per cent of them do little or no physical activity.  

The Ministry of Education requires schools to have breaks for physical activity but free time is routinely converted into class time.

WHO terms this inactivity in adolescents as extremely high and says that it "compromises the children's current and future health".

The study is based on data reported by 3,428 adolescents aged 11 to 16, mostly in primary and high schools in Kenya.

In total, researchers interviewed 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students across 146 countries. 

The study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, finds that more than 80 per cent of schoolgoing adolescents globally do not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day.

The study shows that failure to exercise means the children will not even be as bright as they should be.

“Young people have the right to play and should be provided with the opportunities to realise their right to physical and mental health and wellbeing,” WHO's study co-author Dr Fiona Bull says.

Kenyan girls are less active than they were in 2001 while boys slightly improved in their physical activity compared to 2001. 

The study shows that failure to exercise means the children will not even be as bright as they should be.

The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle during adolescence include improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardiometabolic health and positive effects on weight.

There is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socialising.

"Current evidence suggests that many of these benefits continue into adulthood,"  the report reads.

To achieve these benefits, WHO recommends for adolescents to do moderate or vigorous physical activity for an hour or more every day.

The authors estimated how many 11 to 17-year-olds do not meet this recommendation by analysing data collected through school-based surveys on physical activity levels.

Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity.
WHO study authorDr Regina Guthold

The assessment included all types of physical activity, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education and planned exercise.

To improve levels of physical activity among adolescents, the study recommends urgent scaling up policies and programmes to increase physical activity. 

“Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity,” WHO's study author Dr Regina Guthold says. 

The study used self-reported data only, which may be subject to bias. Data from wearable devices was not used as it could not be compared to self-reported data from surveys. 

Edited by R.Wamochie