‘Health is wealth’ appears to be a concept lost among the country’s next generation as a survey has revealed that children display an ‘alarming lack of fitness’. The survey covered 77,669 children in 176 schools across India. The findings reveal that a majority of school-going children possess undesirable Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

The fourth edition of the ‘Edusports Annual School Health and Fitness Survey’ covered children in the age group of seven to 17 years in 68 cities and 17 States. The fitness parameters, measured over a period of 24 months, included anaerobic capacity, flexibility, lower and upper body strength, abdominal strength and BMI.

A release said the primary causes for higher BMI are ‘sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits and little or no play’. “High BMI is a direct indicator of the onset of obesity, which can lead to several health problems, including Type2 diabetes, heart ailments and high blood pleasure as early as adolescence,” the release added.

Metros vs Non-metros

Geographically, 39 per cent of children in the east and north have unhealthy BMI scores, 38 per cent in the west and 37 per cent each in south and central India. In other words, two in five children have unhealthy BMI scores.

Children in non-metros (44,560 children in 84 schools) are marginally better off compared to those in six metro cities (33,109 children in 92 schools) in four of the six fitness parameters. Children in non-metros demonstrated better flexibility, upper body strength and BMI.

Girls appear to be better off than boys with 66 per cent having healthy BMI scores as compared to 59 per cent of the boys. However, girls score lower than boys in other fitness parameters (anaerobic capacity, flexibility, upper body strength and abdominal strength), which means they are still lagging in overall fitness.

The release said the findings came as a surprise as research shows that awareness and spending on fitness, especially among the young, is seeing an upward trend.

Worrying trend

“Thanks to the conveniences and abundant choice available to children these days, there is a heightened reduction in physical activity. Children ride a bike to the local shop instead of walking. Food consumption patterns are showing a preference for processed and fast foods, which prove to be unhealthy in the long term leading to health issues like childhood obesityand poor health. Another worrying trend is the emergence of virtual gaming, which is eating away play time. Children spend less time outdoors and indulge in little or no physical activities/play,” the release said.

The team behind the survey recommended a ‘structured school sports curriculum’ as research data has proven that schools with three or more physical education classes in a week produced fitter children.

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