Huma Pershad and her family have been living in an independent house in Uthandi for nine years, following their decision to move out of the city. One of the reasons is for their sons to get adequate play space. Huma says the boys get to play outdoors, mostly on the beach.

This is a luxury few parents have. With open play areas in the city shrinking, and most families living in apartments with no dedicated grounds, parents face the twin challenges of keeping children from getting addicted to indoor technology-based games and reducing the consumption of junk food.

K. Githa, paediatrician and neonatologist, Prashanth Multi Speciality Hospital and former professor of neonatology of Madras Medical College says obesity is on the rise among children. “This is mainly due to low physical activity. Obesity is observed mostly school students aged 8 years and above. A number of schools, including big ones, do not have playgrounds,” she says.

Huma says that though living in an apartment means children get an opportunity to interact those of their age group, the absence of open child-friendly space in apartments is a deterrent. “In Delhi, most colonies have a park. The same cannot be said of Chennai . Newer schools too, do not have huge playgrounds. But given the cost of real estate, they cannot be blamed,” says Huma.

A study conducted among students of middle and high income schools found that most of the children were either overweight or obese, says Sheba Jeyaraj, assistant professor, Department of Home Science, Women’s Christian College. She attributes it mainly to poor physical activity combined with increased intake of junk food.

Vaishnavi Saravanan, a class XI student, said that she used to play tennis and also get time to play and pursue music after school hours. “Now a large part of my evenings are spent going to classes, and doing homework. In school, physical training is an elective in class XI, and I opted for Fine Arts. I also used to play a lot of video games, but not anymore,” she says.

Some observe that in apartments, they have to be careful about not breaking a window or car glass, for instance.

Experts said children can play cricket or football, and encouraging them to take up aerobics, swimming and jogging will also help.

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