Video: Newham fighting back in war against rising obesity
- Credit: Archant
Researchers at Cambridge University announced last week that 337,000 deaths a year are caused by “carrying too much weight”.
They found obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand and exercise is beneficial for people of any shape or size.
Nearly a quarter of children leaving primary school are considered to be obese, as are one in four adults.
And it’s been predicted half of us could be obese by 2050.
But the silver lining to this bleak health forecast is it’s possible to turn obesity around – enter National Obesity Awareness Week.
So when the Olympic Park played host to an event as part of National Obesity Awareness Week, I was eager to see what was being done to combat the issue.
I arrived at the Copper Box Arena to find it filled with kids throwing balls, chasing each other and shrieking with delight.
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It dawned on me – getting fit doesn’t have to be a laborious task after all.
The event raised the importance of physical activity among young people by hosting games devised by secondary schools who were asked to create a new activity or improve an existing sport.
Among the newly-invented games being vigorously played were foot golf, space ball and volley-dodge.
“It’s exciting because sports are fun and we get to learn new things,” said Conor Dolan, nine, who’s in Year 4 at Stratford’s Chobham Academy and enjoyed joining in the games.
“I’m quite tired from running around but I think I’m going to get upset when I have to go home because I don’t want the experience to end.”
Danny Wagstaff, a year four teacher at Chobham Academy, said the event was perfect for showing kids the facilities “available on their doorstep”.
Headteacher, Sandra White, added: “It’s important to make sure the children are fit because that has a big impact on their learning.
“If kids are active they get more from their lessons because their more responsive.”
The event was also used as an opportunity to discuss how good health can be encouraged among the public and promote a national New Year’s Resolution to turn obesity around.
Peter Tudor, director of visitors services at the Olympic Park, explained part of the reason the park was placed in Newham was to tackle the borough’s high inactivity level.
He said: “What you see today is people using the park. The convergence agenda was about raising the quality of life in east London to the standard of the rest of London.
“Now we’ve inherited this beautiful sports venue and people are using it to keep fit.”
He explained there’s a range of research showing the importance of catching children at the right age to get them into sports, adding: “Giving them a taste for sports here is perfect and just what this building has been built for.”
National Obesity Awareness Week was launched in 2014 and is led by the National Obesity Forum.
The charity was founded with the remit of raising awareness of obesity as a major health issue and promoting the ways in which is can be addressed.
Admiring the schoolchildren’s imaginative games, Professor David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Scheduled physical activity with rules is fantastic but we also like to see people building activity into their daily lives.”
He said everything we do and everything we eat is making us obese as a nation and it’s important the population is aware of the problems that go with obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease.
“Mainly, we want people to realise they can do something about it, it’s not inevitability. And there’s medical help out there too,” he added.
In case the day wasn’t inspiring enough, the children were also joined by British volleyball player, Rachel Laybourne.
Rachel, who competed for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics, said: “This is the age group to target. If they can get active now it’s likely to translate into older years. All you need is a ball and a creative idea.”
The event was supported by the London Legacy Development Corporation and Greenwich Leisure Limited, which runs the Copper Box under brand name Better.