Parents must exercise their duty to ensure balanced life for children
Schools have long known that a fit body means a fit mind, yet a Hong Kong study on our children's fitness levels has shown them to be worryingly low.
Schools have long known that a fit body means a fit mind, yet a Hong Kong study on our children's fitness levels has shown them to be worryingly low. Too many are overweight or obese, and noticeably so when compared with counterparts on the mainland, in Singapore and Europe. Researchers put it down to too much focus on studies and not enough on exercise. It is a problem that is easy enough to fix, but it is not just a job for teachers; parents have the most important role.
Parents want the best for their children. Our education system dictates that good grades are the path to the best schools, universities and jobs. With limited places, competition is fierce; after-school lessons and tuition to build portfolios and improve marks are common place. The hours spent learning a musical instrument, brushing up on weaker subjects and doing homework are at the expense of exercise.
That imbalance is obvious from the findings. Using World Health Organisation body mass index standards, the University of Hong Kong research of 100,000 students aged between six and 19 found that 18 per cent were overweight and a further 9 per cent obese. The figures were even worse for those aged 10, with 24 per cent overweight and 17 per cent obese. These levels were markedly higher than elsewhere. Also comparing unfavourably was the flexibility of the average Hong Kong girl and the hand-grip strength of 15-year-old boys.
Being overweight or obese can increase the risk in adult life of diabetes, heart and vascular disease and cancer. A joint government-private sector campaign, the School Physical Fitness Award Scheme, may help improve the health of young people. That may spur students to go outdoors and exercise for the recommended one hour a day. Teachers obviously have a role, setting aside enough time each week during school hours for physical fitness and well-being. But ultimately, it is parents who have most say: they need to use good sense to ensure that their children's time is reasonably balanced between schoolwork, relaxation and exercise.