National Childhood Obesity Week - the view from MEND

Our guest blog this week is by Ailsa Nicol from MEND.

This week, National Childhood Obesity Week, saw the publication of a study showing that only 33% of boys and 21% of girls aged four to fifteen get the 60 active minutes a day recommended by the government. The research was carried out for MEND and Change4Life by the University of Worcester’s Institute of Sport and Exercise Science. This is particularly worrying, when we know that one in three children in the UK today is overweight or obese.

The Foresight Report of 2006 told us that obesity is caused by a vast number of interrelated factors. To simplify matters, we can say it’s down to an energy imbalance: we are putting more energy into our bodies than we are burning off. This means that increasing levels of physical activity in our children is critical and sport can play an important role in tackling obesity.

MEND is a social enterprise who run healthy lifestyle programmes in local communities to teach children and their families about nutrition, physical activity and behaviour change, and empower them to lead fitter, healthier and happier lives. To coincide with NCOW, MEND is running Move It Week, which aims to spread a positive message about the benefits of physical activity by encouraging families to spend time being active together.

For many overweight children, participating in sport presents a number of challenges. They often feel self-conscious and shy away from team sports. Engaging this group in sport will require a sensitive approach from the sector. This by no means implies taking the competitive element away from sport, but it does mean being more responsive locally to which sports children want to do, making sport more accessible.

One MEND programme graduate, fourteen year old Hayley Cooke from Middlesborough, was encouraged to try new sports through MEND. She joined local trampolining, football and athletics clubs and found her talent lay with the hammer throw, in which she’s now ranked 16th in the UK. Hayley now acts as an advocate for sport and healthy lifestyles and hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics Games. Hayley is just one example of how engaging in sport can improve health and help tackle obesity.

Particularly in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games the sport sector has a fantastic opportunity to get more kids active and healthy, including those who are overweight or obese, so that we can see a lasting legacy of a healthier generation, and ultimately make a tangible reduction to child obesity levels.

To find out more please visit the MEND website.