Time to tackle child­hood obe­sity

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your Views - Paul Stain­ton

As a child grow­ing up in the 70s I cy­cled ev­ery­where; to and from school ev­ery morn­ing (three miles each way), around my mates on an evening and even scrump­ing for ap­ples at the week­end; wher­ever my friends and I went, we went there on two wheels.

The rea­son was sim­ple; very few peo­ple had a car and my Enfield, five gear rac­ing bike, was my only pass­port to free­dom, free­dom to roam, to dis­cover and ex­plore.

That sec­ond hand, rusty blue fly­ing ma­chine, helped de­liver pa­pers at the crack of dawn, it car­ried count­less bot­toms on the cross bar and fer­ried count­less bags of shop­ping on both han­dle bars.

I would have been lost with­out it and prob­a­bly three stone over­weight.

Be­cause un­be­known to me, this ma­chine was not just help­ing me live life to the full, it was also keep­ing me fit and healthy.

The bike racks at school were full to brim­ming each morn­ing at 08.15, as we raced to school for a pre-les­son kick about; ev­ery child had a bike back then and they were rid­den un­til they lit­er­ally fell to bits.

Obe­sity was not the norm; in fact, I can only re­mem­ber one se­ri­ously over­weight child in our school and his weight gain was down to a med­i­cal prob­lem.

Con­trast that with to­day’s pic­ture in Peterborough, a city where a third of the chil­dren are over­weight or obese, an as­ton­ish­ing statis­tic that does not bode well for the fu­ture.

But it’s not sur­pris­ing, be­cause ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion, one in four of us in the east haven’t rid­den a bike for more than 10 years!

The chil­dren of to­day are be­ing killed by kind­ness, force fed a nice sug­ary break­fast, be­fore be­ing driven to school each morn­ing, in the back of dad’s Mon­deo, whilst their BMX’s sit rust­ing in the garage.

Once at school, they are banned from play­ing foot­ball in the play­ground in case they strain an eye­lash, PE has been for­saken for dou­ble Maths, thanks to the pres­sure of gov­ern­ment tar­gets and the school field, where they used to play tag, has three bed­room semis on it.

When the bell rings, mum chauf­feurs her wob­bly lit­tle sol­diers to McDon­ald’s for tea and shoves a tablet in their hands, to keep them quiet for the night.

Then it’s off to the su­per­mar­ket to buy any­thing in a box that can be shoved in a mi­crowave, fruit and veg­eta­bles are avoided like the plague, be­cause no­body taught mum how to cook.

So, who is to blame for this child­hood obe­sity epi­demic - The Gov­ern­ment, schools or par­ents? Well the an­swer is all three.

Par­ents must turn off their lit­tle one’s gad­gets, stop poi­son­ing them with su­gar, throw them out­side and tell them to play. Then get their bikes out of the garage, scrape off the rust and get their lit­tle legs turn­ing - Sure the roads are busier now than they were, but we have a myr­iad of cy­cle ways in this city, make the chil­dren use them.

Schools should throw open their play­grounds and en­cour­age chil­dren to run around and have fun.

PE needs to be pri­ori­tised and ex­tra ses­sions laid on at lunch time and af­ter school - Din­ner time needs to be a chip and crisp free zone.

The gov­ern­ment and coun­cil have to en­sure that play­ing fields are re­tained and that the pres­sure from tar­gets does not im­pinge on the school’s abil­ity to help keep our chil­dren healthy.

As a mat­ter of ur­gency, the teach­ing of do­mes­tic science and cook­ery must be re-in­tro­duced to the cur­ricu­lum – learn­ing how to cook might be more im­por­tant than trigonom­e­try to the par­ents of the fu­ture.

In short what has hap­pened to the chil­dren of this city is noth­ing short of child abuse and gov­ern­ments, schools and par­ents must all shoul­der the blame and take ac­tion now.

BBC Ra­dio Cam­bridgeshire’s Paul Stain­ton writes for the Peterborough Tele­graph

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