Of every two schoolgoing children in India, one is not fit enough to compete in sports. In Karnataka, around 16.5 per cent of school-going children are overweight, according to the third edition of the EduSports School Health and Fitness Survey. One in four children from metros are overweight, compared to only one in six children in non-metros. Children in non-metros not only possess better health levels (measured by body mass index) than their metro counterparts, but also display better overall fitness levels.
The study, which was released recently, surveyed 49,046 children in the age group of 7-17 years from 104 schools in 54 cities across 18 states. Sixteen schools were surveyed from Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore in the state. The assessments were done in the academic year 2011-12 and covered seven basic fitness indicators including endurance, anaerobic capacity, flexibility, body strength, and BMI.
The study revealed that while the problem of low fitness levels is equally prevalent among boys and girls, fitness levels fall and obesity rises as children grow older. Children in the 10-13 years had higher chances of becoming obese compared to others. Interestingly, children in 46 non-metro cities and towns came across as better across different fitness parameters compared to their counterparts in eight metros. Twenty-four per cent children from North India have high BMIs as against the national average of 19.9 per cent.
Saumil Majmudar, CEO and co-founder, EduSports, said: “It is only natural for children to move away from an activity that they do not possess the fitness or skill level to engage in. If children are unable to run or jump for long, they will be happy to settle down on the sofa. At the same time, it has been proved, with just two to three hours of a focused physical education programme a week, it is possible to effect a small but significant change.”
Sports or physical activity should be made mandatory in schools, feel educationists, as they see children becoming overweight at an alarming rate. “At a primary level, sports has been made a regular activity at our school. From fourth standard, physical activities are arranged four times a week for an hour and 15 minutes. However, the onus should be on parents also. Only physical activity won’t help, if the children get access to excess amount of junk food at home. We have observed that with both parents working, children are often given ready-to-eat or junk food at home,” said Archana Vishwanath, principal, Jain Heritage School.
“Today, obesity is a common problem among children. But only 10 per cent parents of obese children tend to consider this as a problem and seek help,” said Dr Bhaskar Shenoy, head of the paediatrics department, Manipal Hospital. “Reasons that have led to an increase in the number of obese children of late include lack of exercise, consumption of excessive junk food and lack of adequate fibre intake in everyday diet. Children love to watch television specially while having meals and tend to overeat, leading to overweight. Thus, more cases of obesity are seen among children in the 10-15 years of age,” said Dr Shenoy.