38% kids in Maharashtra unfit, finds study

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Fitness level of children in the country is alarmingly low, irrespective of age group, gender and region or city type, revealed a nationwide survey.

The 2013 EduSports Annual School Health and Fitness survey studied 77,669 children aged between seven and 17 years in 68 cities and 17 states. The results pointed to unhealthy Body Mass Index (BMI) scores and lack of fitness among the survey’s participants. According to the survey, children from all five regions of the country were deemed equally unfit, with unhealthy BMI scores of 37% (Central), 39% (East and North), 37% (South) and 38% (West).

In Maharashtra, 24% children were underweight and 14% were overweight. Of the total children surveyed in the state, 38% registered an unhealthy BMI. The fitness parameters measured over 24 months included anaerobic capacity, flexibility, lower and upper body strength, abdominal strength and BMI.

Children in non-metros (44,560 in 84 schools) performed marginally higher than their counterparts in the six metro cities (33,109 in 92 schools) in four of the six fitness parameters.

Experts attribute these unhealthy signs to today’s sedentary lifestyle. “One main reason for an unhealthy BMI is improper nutrition. The children are not taking a balanced diet. Poor fitness levels are mainly because sports is not an encouraged faculty among both parents and schools.

Advent of electronic toys is another reason. Most children spend their time playing on mobile phones today and, hence, don’t do any exercise,” said Dr KP Sanghvi, paediatrician attached to Jaslok Hospital.

Another controlled group study was also conducted, where 27,381 kids from 56 schools in 34 cities went through a structured sports programme over 24 months and experienced regular sessions of structured sports or physical activity. When compared with children from schools without a structured sports programme, the children registered an average of at least 6% higher across all fitness parameters.

“The alarming fitness standards that have emerged in our annual study prove yet again that physical activity/sports in schools should be viewed as an important part of the curriculum for overall development of a child,” said Saumil Majumdar, CEO, EduSports.

What is BMI?
BMI is a measure for human body shape based on an individual’s mass and height. It is calculated by dividing an individual’s body mass by the square of their height. As per Indian standards, normal BMI is 18 to 22.

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