Fighting back against the flab - why are children overweight and obese

Children exercising to stay healthy Credit: ITV

Around 10% of children are dangerously overweight when they start primary school, and the figure rises to around 20% by the time they leave, according to NHS data.

Last year, figures revealed that childhood obesity across the Rushmoor borough in Hampshire, was higher than the county average. So the council decided to delve into why. And, in a way that hadn't been done before in the UK, it took a two-pronged approach.

First, it sent a 56 question survey to all 29 infant/primary schools to see what they were doing to address the issue.

Secondly an environmental audit looked at the school catchments to assess access to green/open space, leisure facilities, sports clubs, play grounds, travel to school rates, and the number of takeaways per sq k.

Outcomes showed that:

  • A great environment can help maintain healthy weight.

  • You are more likely to be overweight if residing in a deprived area

  • Healthy weights can be maintained if there is good access to green spaces and areas of play.

The council says the survey is just the first step in truly understanding the driving forces behind childhood obesity, and they are now looking at how to interpret the data and put long-term action plans in place.

At Talavera Junior School in Aldershot, making sure children get a good amount of exercise is a top priority. Watch Emma Wilkinson's report:

Many experts agree that children need to learn about staying fit and healthy at an early age.

In Bournemouth, parents Joanna and Simon Bourne have turned screen time into exercise time with an online app for 3-8 year olds, that can be used at home or in education settings.

Teddy Time involves a full-body work out for young children and teaches them healthy lifestyle habits.

The couple say it has been challenging to get the programme into nursery and school settings, and they believe that is partly because schools are burdened with a very full curriculum.