Editor's Viewpoint: Report highlights need for parents to encourage children to exercise for the sake of their health now and in the future
It is estimated that at least 25% of children in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, storing up potential health problems later in life. One of the factors which causes children to pile on the pounds is lack of exercise and a shock report just published puts young people's sedentary lifestyle into sharp focus.
Almost four in five children aged 11-17 are taking less exercise than prisoners in our jails, according to the study. While World Health Organisation guidelines say children should take one hour of exercise daily only 25% of children in the province meet that figure.
Prisoners, for example, can have a minimum of one hour a day free association - although in practice that can extend to two hours or more and according to prison authorities it can include exercise.
It seems children nowadays would rather sit for hours in front of their televisions or at their games consoles. Those are the only games they play instead of ordinary sport or the everyday activities of children in years gone by.
While parents may be glad to know that their children are safe indoors they must realise that there could be serious long-term health problems ahead because of the lack of exercise.
Obesity, for example, is a contributory factor in the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, some cancers, chronic conditions and shortened life expectancy.
There is also the risk of being trolled for being overweight which can have a serious effect on the mental wellbeing of young people, unfortunately sometimes leading to grim outcomes.
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Regular exercise, on the other hand, makes people feel good and gives them the opportunity to create a wider circle of friends and brings with it positive health gains.
This study is a stern warning to parents to ensure that their children take more exercise. Making it a family activity as often as possible is the best way encouraging young people to get out and get active.