by Edmund Mifsud, PE Teacher at Maria Regina College
Maltese 10 and 11 year olds are the fattest on Earth, according to new research. It reveals that children in the two age groups feature right at the top of the table for the most overweight and obese in the world.
The research also found that boys are more overweight and obese than girls and that the prevalence was higher than previously estimated. More than 34 per cent of Maltese children were classified as overweight or obese. The study’s objective was to establish, through height and weight, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in a representative sample of Maltese children aged between 10 and 11.
Many have been the arguments and many other questions will remain. Here I stop, ask and ponder, “is it the kind of food, is it the quantity, is it the time when food and drinks are consumed? Could it be the variety of electronic games and the children’s addiction to sit and move their fingers? Or is it perhaps the lack of physical activity or no exercise at all? Has life become a rat race to the extent that priorities are not lensed through the healthy spectacles any longer?”
The combination of high-sugar and high-fat diets, along with inactivity, has definitely increased the rate of childhood obesity. Type 2 diabetes, which in past had been almost exclusively a disease that developed in adulthood is now being regularly diagnosed in young children. And because obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, more children than ever are at risk of developing the disease as adults. Obesity rates among adolescents tripled in the last decade and because of obesity young children are developing factors of heart disease.
A Way of Life
Physical Education and Sports should be a “Way of Life” for everyone. We Fuel our bodies every day, hence we must exercise every day too. In schools the PE lesson provides an opportunity for children to learn about competing with oneself first and working in a team in a fun educational experience. Such sessions help the children give their best possible efforts in order to learn what it takes to improve and get better, win individually or within a group and how to handle a defeat thus preparing for a more mature development.
Another reason that may hinder daily physical activity in children is by all means the concern of many parents that their child’s academic performance will be negatively affected by the time out engaged in physical activity. According to Stewart G. Trost, associate professor from the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Oregon State University, physical activity actually helps children’s academic performance. 14 studies published between 1967 through 2006 analysed the link between academic performance and physical activity. These studies involved 58.000 students. 11 of the 14 studies concluded that regular physical activity improved academic performance.
Recommendations to help children lose weight and get fit
Become more active. Parents should encourage children to take advantage of summer, beating the heat and staying active at the same time. In summer learn how to swim. Involve the whole family by organising outings to the beach during summer or to the park in winter. Go on a family walks instead of watching television.
Cut out the junk food and sugary drinks. Replace with fruit, nuts and vegetables. Get ideas for a Health Lunch Box.
Eat at the table and not in front of the TV.