How we can start to tackle a record high in severely obese children

Published by Dr Petra Simic
Clinical Director, Bupa UK Health Clinics

26 July 2018 . United Kingdom

New figures published by Public Health England (PHE) reveal a record number of 10- to 11-year-olds are severely obese. One in 25 10- to 11-year-olds are severely obese – up from one in 32 a decade ago.
Boy carrying apples

Obesity puts you at greater risk of serious health issues, and the longer you’re overweight, the higher chance you have of developing a problem.

If a child is obese they are at greater risk of developing serious health problems later in life such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. However, in the short-term, obesity can put strain on their muscles and joints, and cause sleep problems such as snoring and sleep apnoea.

There are a number of things that can cause obesity in children, but the best way to tackle childhood obesity is to make lifestyle changes. These could include improving the quality of the foods they eat and increasing the amount of exercise they do.

Here are some tips to help your family eat more healthily

  • Increase the amounts of vegetables, fruits and grains in your diet and cut down on fatty, salty and sugary foods.
  • Cut out sugary drinks altogether – offer water, semi-skimmed milk drinks (for over fives) or diluted fruit juice in moderation.
  • Add extra vegetables, beans or lentils to soups, stews, casseroles and pasta sauces.
  • If you’re meat eaters, opt for chicken and fish rather than red or processed meat.
  • Serve smaller portions and check packaging for the recommended serving. Using smaller plates may help – dinner plates we use today are much bigger than they were 20 or 30 years ago.
  • Sit down to eat as a family as often as you can and involve children in planning and preparing meals. This can help them to develop better eating habits and learn about healthy eating.

Here are some tips to help your child get active

Children over the age of five need to do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. This can be all in one go or over a number of sessions of 10 minutes or more.

  • Try building activity into everyday life, such as walking or cycling to school and using stairs instead of the lift.
  • Involve your children in family jobs, such as walking the dog, washing the car or gardening.
  • Encourage your child to join classes or clubs for activities they enjoy, such as dancing, swimming or football.
  • Take part as a family: in walking, cycling, dancing or playing sports.
  • Cut down on the amount of time your child spends in front of any screen e.g. watching television, playing computer games or using a tablet. Try to limit this to less than two hours a day or 14 hours a week.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep – increasing physical exercise can help with this. Did you know that school-aged children (6–13 years) should get between nine and 11 hours sleep each night?

Dr Petra Simic

Clinical Director, Bupa UK Health Clinics

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