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Overcoming childhood obesity: the importance of physical activity

Published on: 30 May, 2017

The new POLHN course, Physical Activity for Healthy Islands, will be released soon. Read below to find out more about why physical activity is so important for children in the Pacific. 

Today, more than 6.2 million children in the Western Pacific are overweight. Childhood obesity is higher than ever before. Children who are overweight or obese have an increased chance of developing diabetes, asthma, sleep disorders, and depression, among other diseases. They are also much more likely to experience disability or premature death.

On the other hand, when a child engages in regular physical activity and is a healthy weight, their likelihood of developing cancer, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases. Physically active children also experience other benefits: they have better social and motor skills, a more stable mood, and better educational outcomes.

Guidelines for children’s physical activity

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that children aged 5 to 17 do at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. These activities can be as simple as running with other kids in the playground, playing rugby, or walking to school.

In order to meet these guidelines and live a healthy life, children need the support from their families, friends, teachers and the whole community. In the Pacific, one of the major current initiatives to encourage kids’ physical activity is through the health promoting schools program.

Health promoting schools

A joint initiative between WHO and Ministries of Health, this program is currently active in the majority of the Pacific, including Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The initiative aims to provide students with positive experiences and structures that promote and protect their health.

In terms of physical activity, health promoting schools has encouraged children to develop motor skills through implementing physical education curricula, and play more sport by installing soccer nets and rugby posts. Teachers are leading aerobics, children are growing vegetables, and community involvement is on the rise. It is the small steps like these that make a difference.

With the global number of obese children set to reach 70 million by 2025, encouraging physical activity in children is more important than ever. Reducing screen time, promoting a healthy diet and getting children outside and moving for an hour a day are essential. By taking a community-based approach, we can ensure children live the long, happy and healthy lives that they deserve.

In light of the current crisis of non-communicable diseases, POLHN will soon be releasing a course entitled Physical Activity for Healthy Islands. This self-paced program will cover the WHO guidelines for physical activity in both children and adults, focusing on strategies for the Pacific.

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