View Comments
Fitness starts with school drop-off
Fitness starts with school drop-off

Helping children lose weight can be as basic as getting them to walk to school, or just dropping them off half a kilometre away rather than at the school gates.

Harold Scruby from the Pedestrian Council of Australia says they are trying to find ways to get parents to keep away from the "kiss and drop zone", especially when so many kids live only around 1.5km from their school.

"We’ve got to somehow get them out of the car earlier," he says.

And he says the lack of walking in country areas is even worse than our cities, where the urban sprawl can be a huge disadvantage.

"We’re a country of urban sprawl, we’re not Hong Kong or New York. But we can get kids out of their cars even half a kilometre before, and doing that they (parents) can hold their hands crossing the road, they can both get exercise," Scruby says.

"It’s not even half an hour out of your day. What’s the investment worth?"

It’s been estimated that if you walk 15 minutes a day you add three years to your life, he says.

"But these kids aren’t even getting half a minute a day.

"It’s proven unequivocally (children are) far more productive and creative if they’ve had a bit of exercise. If they come to school in an armchair they are not properly equipped to handle the day."

His organisation has been working with people in less affluent areas and their research is showing people are gradually walking more to school.

Scruby was speaking after a breakfast organised by the health insurance company, Bupa, to release data known as the Bupa Health Pulse 2012, which was analysed by Imogen Randell, managing director of Quantum Market Research.

The global study is conducted annually across 13 countries involving 14,528 surveys amongst adults about their health.

Randell says the study showed that while Australians feel relatively positive about their health, the reality is that half of them are overweight or obese.

Parents are concerned about their children eating a healthy diet (39 per cent) and getting enough exercise (37 per cent), she says but many find it difficult to ’walk the talk’.

The survey shows seven in 10 Australian parents who are overweight or obese themselves believe they are a top source for their children’s education about living a healthy lifestyle.

"Parents recognise that they are a prime source of information for their children living a healthy lifestyle (71 per cent) but with 26 per cent obese and 30 per cent overweight, the challenge is they are not leading by example," she says.

"They talk to their kids .... but it’s really hard for parents to change some of their behaviours to bring about change for the kids. It’s a big challenge."

She says the way we’re going our overweight rate will be 80 per cent by 2020 which means in real terms we’ll be as fat a nation as the US.

TV shows such as The Biggest Loser don’t help, popular as they are. She says they have a "normalising effect" and are not about prevention, but rather about requiring intervention.

"The rest of us are heading in that direction but we think, ’I’ll never get to that’."

Being overweight is not a black and white topic (like smoking), Randell admits.

"Where does health tip into being unhealthy that’s where the confusion lies."

A host of elements including portion size, the way food and entertainment mix, food as rewards and social trends impact where we are today.

And one in 10 parents surveyed don’t speak to their children about their health at all and rated other family members, school, the internet and the media as other sources for their children’s health messages.