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At 14.4 million, India has the second highest number of obese children in the world, just behind China, which is at 15 million, according to a study published in ‘The New England Journal of Medicine. Obese children are exposed to higher health risks that are recognised as precursors to diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, high blood pressure and cancer which often track to adulthood.
As a partner in nurturing children along with the parents, schools should take the responsibility of health management for students. Schools can plan interactive sessions on diet management, share expert views on how to enhance fitness and demonstrate exercises that can get them out from a sedentary lifestyle.
Dietary management programs in schools without compromising appropriate calorie intake and normal nutrition can help weight management among students. Due emphasis needs to be given to initiate and maintain healthy eating patterns such as reduction of eating junk food, planning for healthy snacks, regular intake of a balanced diet, adequate intake of fruits and vegetables in the meals, ensure good fiber content in the diet and avoidance of high calorie/high fat food.
It’s worthwhile to appoint trained dieticians across campuses who can advice students on the benefits of salt reduction, reduction of sugar-rich beverages and avoidance of trans-fatty acids from the diet. The recommended sugar intake for children from 4-15 years is 19grams to 30grams, which should comprise of only five per cent of their daily calories from added sugars. These diet tips should be supported with strong evidence of benefits that can motivate healthy eating habits.
Moderate to intense physical activity is essential for weight management. Physical training class should encourage children to engage in not less than 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day to achieve optimum cardiovascular health.
Most kids prefer playing video games and indulge in sedentary activity like watching TV in their free time. It’s important for schools to organise parent workshops to sensitise them on the hazards of a sedentary lifestyle. Every hour of sedentary activity increases the chance of obesity.
Parents need to be advised on various remedial measures such as, reducing the screen-time of their wards to less than two hours per day as, if done otherwise; there are chances of increased adiposity and increase in weight. Excessive TV viewing is associated with higher intakes of energy, fat, sweet and salty snacks and carbonated beverages in addition to reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables. This makes TV time restriction an excellent opportunity to complement dietary management.
Another important element of promoting healthy living amongst students is to make them practice yoga. Considered to an effective tool for children and young adults to deal with stress, yoga brings balance to one’s body and soul. According to researchers, yoga postures like Pranayama and Surya Namaskar benefits students and others, if they practice them for about six months. While physical exercises work more on the bones and muscles, yoga benefits the brain.
An effective tool for weight loss and body toning involves movement and stretching of all body parts, Yoga energises the body and helps break blockages in the body.
As schools, it is our endeavor to help students realise that nutrition and fitness are essential for healthy living. If we promote a continuous and life-long practice of eating right and regular exercise, students can develop a healthy lifestyle.
The writer is Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Global Indian International School.