WITH the school summer holidays underway, a Brighton GP practice is urging parents to take the opportunity to encourage their children to get active as a new report suggests fitness levels of youngsters are rapidly deteriorating.
A study into the fitness of 300 ten and eleven-year-olds led by Dr Gavin Sandercock at the University of Essex fitness levels are falling at an even faster rate than first feared. The study concluded that if it took the least fit child from a class of 30 tested in 1998, they would be one of the five fittest children in a class of the same age today.
Dr Tara Dukkipati is Interim National Medical Director, Practices, Care UK, which runs Brighton Station Health Centre in Queens Road on behalf of the local NHS. She said: “Inactivity among children is a huge problem. We are storing up massive health problems for this generation which is very bad news for the youngsters concerned and worrying for the added pressure this will put on the NHS in the future.
“The school summer holiday is an ideal time to encourage youngsters to get out in the fresh air and get active. If youngsters develop good habits during the six-week break, hopefully they will continue with their good habits once school starts again.”
Dr Dukkipati offered the following advice:
- one of the best ways to instil good habits in your child is to be a good role model. Children learn by example. Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV, or surfing the internet. Playing in the park or swimming with your children shows them that being active is fun. Any changes you make to your child’s diet and lifestyle are much more likely to be accepted if the changes are small and involve the whole family
- get active: very overweight children don’t need to do more exercise than slimmer children. Their extra body weight means they will naturally burn more calories for the same activity. All children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for good health, but it doesn’t need to be all at once. Several short 10-minute or even 5-minute bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as good as an hour-long stretch. Walking or cycling short distances instead of using the car or bus is a great way to be active together as a family – and you’ll save money too
- child-size portions: try to avoid feeding your child large portions. A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they are still hungry. Try not to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to. And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions
- eat healthy meals: children, just like adults, should aim to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day. They’re a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Getting 5-a-day shouldn’t be too difficult. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5-a-day including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried. Juices, smoothies, beans and pulses also count. Discourage your child from having too many sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals and soft drinks. These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients
- less screen time and more sleep: help your children to avoid sitting and lying around too much, as it makes it more likely for them to put on weight. Limit the amount of time your child spends on inactive pastimes such as watching television, playing video games and playing on electronic devices. There’s no hard and fast advice on how much is too much, but experts advise that children should watch no more than two hours of television each day – and remove all screens (including mobile phones) from their bedroom at night.
Brighton Station Health Centre is open 8am-8pm, 365 days a year for walk-in patients. These extended hours have also made it a very popular choice with patients who have chosen it as their registered GP surgery. Further information about registering as a patient with Brighton Station Health Centre can be obtained on 01273 258 159.