There are very few issues in society that are as worrying, or potentially as catastrophic in the long term, as child obesity. Figures show that obesity levels are rising across the country for all age groups. In fact, the figures really do make for grim and depressing reading. It has been estimated that one in four adults are obese in the UK.
Regarding the younger generation, one in five of 11-year olds are categorised as obese. Overall, between the ages of two and fifteen, as many as a third of all children could now be classified as either overweight or obese. If current trends continue, it is predicted that more than 50% of the UK’s total population could be obese by the year 2030.
Child obesity: Finding solutions to the problem
Of course, it would be foolhardy to suggest that the causes of obesity are anything other than very complex. There are a wide variety of factors that contribute to the problems. Similarly, it would be flippant and unrealistic to suggest that there are any quick fixes or a handy set of solutions that can simply be taken off the shelf to solve all the problems, and somehow miraculously stem the rise in national obesity levels.
However, society cannot hideaway from the issue. It’s a problem that has to be faced head-on. In terms of child obesity, there are some obvious steps to take that would alleviate risk. These include, monitoring the size of food portions and improving the ‘quality’ of foods; encouraging a move away from high-calorie foods and towards healthier snacks. In addition, getting kids to swap fizzy and sugary drinks for water is another good idea.
Therefore, various initiatives, such as the drive towards healthier school dinners, and the ‘sugar tax’ have been introduced.
These are all well-meaning and no doubt useful ideas. But could bringing in compulsory cycling education at primary school be the key to solving child obesity?
60 minutes of exercise a day is recommended
One of the key recommendations to promote a healthier lifestyle for children is for them to have 60 minutes of exercise a day. Combined with more sleep and less screen time (on computers, games and mobile phones), and together with a sensible diet, being more active is crucial in the fight against obesity.
And. cycling education could be a central part of this.
Schools could lead on cycling education
Cycling could be an important way to get children more active and schools could lead the way when it comes to educating youngsters about the benefits of getting on a bike. Schools have the ability to ingrain habits and mould behaviours in children at an early age. Primary schools are in a perfect position to both educate children about how to stay safe cycling, as well as instilling a love for it at an early age. If riding a bike becomes the norm, and children grow up surrounded by all their friends cycling, it’s a habit that is much more likely to stick.
Cycling combats obesity and climate change
Cycling education at primary school essentially kills two birds with one stone. By normalising cycling as the go-to method of transport, it encourages children to get more exercise and to be more active. It also, potentially, leads them away from buses or the parents’ car and the ‘school run’.
Of course, the transport infrastructure in our towns and cities needs to be improved. Considerable investment is required as parents and schools might be reticent to promote cycling because of safety fears. Such worries are certainly not unfounded. However, research also shows that there are actually fewer accidents and injuries when there are more cyclists on the roads.
Compulsory cycling education at primary school wouldn’t solve child obesity on its own. However, it would go a long way in helping to reduce the scale of the problem, as well as being good for the environment. It’s really a win-win situation.
1- Children Obesity, Is it time to ask all students to walk to their school?
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3- How to teach life skills in school
4- School sports that encourage learning
5- 10 Ways to increase children’s activity levels at school