Physical activity declining among urban children; cause of worry, say doctors at Paras Bliss Panchkula

Overuse of tech gadgets accelerating health issues among urban teenagers

Parents are advised to live and promote a healthy lifestyle because children’s behavior is often shaped by observation and adaptation

Panchkula, , 2017: With technology being all-pervasive, uber-connectivity has now made people available anytime, anywhere. It’s no wonder then that electronic gadgets and devices such as video games, computers, laptops, and cell phones are affecting the health of children to a considerable extent.

India at present is the 3rd most obese country in the world. While the disease presently affects every age and income group, childhood obesity is of special concern. Doctors at Paras Bliss Panchkula have noted that co-morbid diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia (cholesterol), which were once considered adult problems, are now being encountered among the pediatric population due to obesity.

According to global estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low and middle income countries, particularly in urban settings. The prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. Globally, in 2015 the number of overweight children under the age of 5 is estimated to be over 41 million. In India, the pooled data after 2010 estimated a combined prevalence of 19.3 per cent of childhood overweight and obesity which was a significant increase from the earlier prevalence of 16.3 per cent reported in 2001-2005.

“As children spend a large share of their time on electronic gadgets, it can adversely affect lifestyle patterns. Gone are the days when children would go out play cricket, football or hide and seek with their friends, these days they would rather sit at home and play video games. Dietary and physical activity-based behavioral patterns of children are generally influenced by families, communities, schools, so it is important to give them nutrition education, right from day one. Parents play a vital role in this. Enrolling children in group activities, not just during the summer months, but all year round will keep children active” says Dr Jyoti Chawla, Sr. Consultant Pediatrics, Paras Bliss Hospital, Panchkula.

The WHO recommends that children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily to improve their cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers. This activity should include play, games, sports, transportation, chores, recreation, physical education, or planned exercise, in the context of family, school, and community activities.

“Muscle and bones need to be strengthened and conditioned in the formative years. Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous intense activities should be incorporated at least 3 times per week to promote growth. Physical activity has also been associated with psychological benefits in young people by improving their control over symptoms of anxiety and depression. Similarly, participation in physical activity can assist in the social development of young people by providing opportunities for self-expression, building self-confidence, social interaction and integration. It has also been suggested that physically active young people more readily adopt other healthy behaviors (e.g. avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drug use) and demonstrate higher academic performance at school”, adds Dr Jyoti Chawla, Sr. Consultant Pediatrics, Paras Bliss Hospital, Panchkula.

Paras Bliss Panchkula firmly believes that not just parental, but also school and community involvement in a child’s well-being can ensure a healthy next generation.

Some suggestions to promote physical activity at home are:

  • Reduce inactive time like television viewing, playing on computer
  • Encourage safe walking/bicycling to school and to other social activities
  • Make physical activities a part of the family’s daily routine such as designating time for family walks or playing active games together
  • Ensure that the activity is age appropriate and provide protective equipment such as helmets, wrist pads, and knee pads