Forget backpacks, children get bogged down by their own weight

Mumbai: Forget bulky backpacks, increasingly, it is the schoolchildren carrying these who are getting bulkier. While schools are broadening the horizons of their minds, once they are home, kids are getting too much ‘screen time’ apart from the consumption of junk food among other factors and this is broadening their girth, according to a survey.

Watching television, using laptops and mobiles is causing children to gain weight, according to a study undertaken by Aastha Health Care. Twenty-one per cent of children were found to be overweight, while 16 per cent of children were severely obese.

Lifestyle changes, excessive time spent staring into screens, less physical activity, junk food and stress are the culprits eating into children’s health, causing them to be overweight and obese.

Dr Manish Motwani, obesity surgeon, Aastha Healthcare, said, to create awareness about childhood obesity, they had conducted a three-month campaign to E-radicate C-hild H-ood O-besity “ECHO... for a change”. Obesity at a young age portends liver disease, heart disease and hypertension in the future.

“Childhood obesity affects children’s physical health, social, and emotional well-being and self-esteem. It is also associated with poor academic performance and a lower quality of life for the child.

A survey was carried out to raise awareness on obesity, which is emerging as a ‘silent killer’,” said Dr Motwani.

The survey was conducted in 15 high schools across Mumbai and involved 9,000 students (4,806 boys and 4,194 girls) 11-15 years in age, from Classes 6-9.

“The data was collected by means of personal interviews with students, using a pre-designed questionnaire based on the body composition analysis, body mass index (BMI), physical appearance, medical conditions they suffer from, and diet. This analysis revealed, around 21 per cent out of the 9,000 students were overweight and 16 per cent were obese,” said Dr Motwani.

“As per the survey, of 4,806 boys, 1,028 were overweight and 817 obese and 805 of 4,194 girls were overweight and 612 obese. The survey further revealed, 59.3 per cent of children spend more than two hours a day watching TV or working on laptops or using mobile phones. Students also displayed signs of obesity like lethargy, breathlessness and dark patches,” he added.

Dr Motwani said, they had educated parents and teachers of these students on home-based and school-based interventions, to improve the health and prevent further complication in their children’s lives.

“One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the eating and exercise habits of the

entire family. Banning unhealthy food in cafeterias, limiting screen time, cutting down on junk food at home and providing healthy snacks to children can do the trick too,” he said.

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