Schools leading obesity fight

Caloundra State Primary School students (from left) Alex Hiotis, Amy Rosenthal and Abigail Bopf in their school's healthy food garden.
Caloundra State Primary School students (from left) Alex Hiotis, Amy Rosenthal and Abigail Bopf in their school's healthy food garden. Cade Mooney

SCHOOLS that taught students healthy eating and underlined it by keeping junk food out of their tuckshops were at the cutting edge of the fight against obesity, a Sunshine Coast doctor said yesterday.

Coast Local Medical Association president Wayne Herdy was commenting after a government report revealed that more than 60% of Australia's adult population and almost a quarter of children aged 2-16 were overweight or obese.

And a study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found almost 38% of Australians aged 15 and over were "physically inactive".

The percentage was almost as high as the official figures in the United States.

"Schools that teach a healthy eating, healthy play message have to be applauded," Dr Herdy said.

He said the lessons learned at school were often being taken home and having good effects there, too.

However Dr Herdy warned that children were swapping physical sporting activities for computer games, often with parents' blessings.

"Exercising the thumbs is not enough.

"Children need whole-body dexterity," he said.

By coincidence, a study released yesterday found that the number of children skilled at basic movements such as running, jumping and throwing was declining in Australia.

The NSW study found that less than half of the primary school children surveyed did the recommended 60 minutes of exercise daily, which could be linked directly to the decline in basic movement skills.

Study leader Louise Hardy said without basic movement skills children were less likely to participate in sports or play with their friends, had lower fitness levels and were more prone to being overweight or obese.

She said parents were partly to blame for not playing with their children.

"They should be giving their kids a ball, not a DVD," she said.

The study assessed skills of 7000 students from Year 2 through to high school. Dr Herdy was less direct, but did agree parents needed to play a role.

He also said parents had to allow children enough space to exercise.

"Without wishing to downplay the Stranger Danger message, I believe that parents can be overprotective to the detriment of children's health," he said.

"The dangers of abduction are no worse now than they were 30-50 years ago.

"While children have to be aware, I think they should be able to go down to the park with friends to play.

"It's all about balance."



  • Inactivity is linked with being overweight and obesity.
  • Lack of physical inactivity accounts for more than five million deaths each year around the world.
  • Increasing activity by as little as 10% could save more than half a million lives.
  • Adequate physical activity is either five 30-minute sessions of moderate-intensity activity or three 20-minute sessions of vigorous-intensity activity each week.

* The Lancet's Physical Activity Working Group paper

Topics:  children doctor food health obesity schools

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