Unfit Kids


Steve Hines, DipION, Nutritional therapist and sports nutrition specialist

Year of publication: 

With the huge leaps in technology we have seen over the last decade, can we blame our children for wanting a more convenient life? Social interaction involves poking friends on Facebook rather than meeting up in the park. Exercising the thumbs by texting rather than in a 5-a-side kick-about might be the most activity the X-box generation gets. In 2005 the NHS reported that only 17% of children aged 5-15 were managing to achieve 5-a-day. It’s no wonder the government is trying to meet this food and fitness challenge head-on with initiatives such as Change For Life.

Risk factors

Currently it is estimated that 8.5% of 6 year olds and 15% of 15 year olds are classed as obese and the risks associated with being obese are numerous, leading in some cases to childhood diseases and more predictably to a whole range of disease in adulthood. One of the problems is the early onset of type 2 diabetes – that’s the diabetes that used to occur in our elderly generation. Research is revealing that this form of diabetes has now been seen in children as young as 8 years old. Other problems include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

Warning signs

There are two good indicators to determine your child’s health, body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratio (WHR).

Summer shape-up

Inspire your kids to get off the sofa this summer and get out in the sunshine. Get your kids to look and feel better, be healthier and have a great star t in life.

 3-6 year olds

 Most young children have bundles of energy to burn off so it’s best directed outside of the home. Playgroups and pre-school clubs like Tumble Tots would be a good place to star t. Also, play dates in the park or having fun with soft tennis or teaching them to swim. Scooters can help them build confidence with balance and coordination. All these activities are fun, unstructured and ideal for young kids. Children’s brains and co-ordination are developing quickly at a young age so fish oil supplements are impor tant to provide omega 3’s needed for cognitive development.

7-12 year olds

 At this age organised games and sports are more applicable. Sports such as martialarts, swimming, horse riding, gymnastics and athletics that involve building co-ordination in throwing, running and jumping events are a must. Summer is a great time to join the local athletics or running clubs. For working parents finding a local sports camp is a great way to entertain your child and improve their fitness and BMI. However this type of childcare can add up so also look at the Change For Life website and see what local schemes are going on in your area.

13-18 year olds

More serious participation in organised sports should be encouraged for kids in this age group. Summer spor ts such as school teams or college cricket, rugby league, tennis, hockey or netball are great to par ticipate in. If they shy away from team sports then workout DVD’s from social role models such as the Pussy Cat Dolls dance routine or other celebrity fitness regimens will help trim the waistline and burn extra calories. For older kids local council gyms are generally affordable and have reasonable facilities; some including a swimming pool. Weight-bearing activities like resistance exercise for girls should be encouraged to help promote bone mineral density, and are great for boys to star t building some muscle and develop a masculine body shape. The use of sports supplements such as whey protein after workouts would be a good way to repair muscle damage after physical activity. Plenty of ideas to inspire you to motivate your kids to get off the sofa this summer and shape up. Your efforts now could protect them from developing health complications later on in life.

  5 motivational tips for parents

1. Rewards such as trips to the movies and fun days out can be used to help build initial interest in activity.

 2. Prizes can be used to generate some friendly competition between siblings or friends to get them inspired to achieve success.

3. Adventure and imagination can be used to get your child active. Children aspire to be like their favourite sporting role models, so use this interest to your advantage.

4. Friendships can be formed and developed during exercise. So encourage interaction with team games and sports clubs.

5. Variety is important to prevent boredom. Keep it fresh and fun.  

CHILDREN'S HEALTH, childhood obesity, BMI, WHR
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