South African kids slack in exercise & nutrition

Obesity in South Africa is estimated between 15 to 30% across boys‚ girls and adolescents – levels similar to those seen in American children. Image: iStock  
When it comes to running‚ jumping and climbing trees South African children score a big fat C.

This according to the results of the Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card for 2016‚ produced by 33 academics and content experts.

This is the fourth time South African children were included in the global research project since 2007.

For their overall physical activity South African children scored a C-grade‚ meaning only about half of them get enough exercise.

In 2014 South African children scored a D for overall physical activity.

Wits University exercise physiology researcher Dr Rebecca Meiring said‚ however‚ that children are still not getting enough exercise.

“In South Africa we can attribute this to the fast rate of urbanisation with people moving from rural regions to urban areas‚ where there is a lot of access to fast food and technology.”

“In South Africa we can attribute this to the fast rate of urbanisation with people moving from rural regions to urban areas‚ where there is a lot of access to fast food and technology.”

The research found that South African children are not meeting the recommended guidelines of two hours of screen time or less daily and that social media and cell phone use is high.

Organised sport‚ physical fitness and motor proficiency have not improved since the last report’s release.

While the Department of Basic Education has invested in physical activity programmes‚ compliance with these remains poor‚ researchers found.

When it comes to nutrition‚ young South Africans are also missing the mark with the number of overweight and obese children and adolescents in the country recorded as high. In this category they scored a D-grade.

Obesity in the region is estimated between 15 to 30% across boys‚ girls and adolescents – levels similar to those seen in American children.

Under-nutrition is slowly declining in the country’s children and is almost on par with the prevalence of obesity‚ Meiring said.

Globally there are now more overweight and obese children than there are children who are under-nourished or stunted‚ as physical activity levels decline.

“The best time to intervene for physical activity is during the childhood years‚ to implement a lifelong yearning for involvement in physical activity‚” Meiring said.

Wits University biokinetics researcher Dr Estelle Watson said the report highlighted the need for more research on physical activity and nutrition‚ to indicate how to improve in these areas.

“We know our health care system is really burdened so we need cost-effective and easy ways to encourage kids to become more active at school or at home.”

BY ROXANNE HENDERSON SUNDAY TIMES LIFESTYLE 

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