12th Mar 2009 - 00:00
New figures reveal over a third of 11 and 12 year olds in Tower Hamlets, east London are overweight or obese â€“ 11% higher than the national average.
According to pilot research, boys in the borough walk or run just 12,620 steps a day when the recommended number of steps for them is 15,000. Girls walk or run 10,150 steps a day when their recommended daily steps are 12,000. The steps survey looked into body composition and activity levels of Tower Hamlets children who wore pedometers to measure the number of steps taken in an average week. Now the person behind the steps survey says youngsters need to take up exercise urgently as a form of medicine to beat the problem. Dr Zoe Hudson, Associate Lead and Head Clinical Lecturer at the Centre for Sports Exercise and Medicine said: "These figures from the children we've measured in east London are most alarming because they score a lot lower than the recommended number of steps per day. Parents need to realise inactivity can potentially lead to many future health problems, such as heart and breathing problems, diabetes and depression. Exercise however is probably the best pill ever invented. It makes us happier and improves our overall health and well-being." The latest statistics came to light after just under 200 children were surveyed for body composition and physical activity levels. The children from Tower Hamlets were given pedometers to wear to measure their daily activity levels over an entire week. The survey which concentrated on children from the Whitechapel area found children are more active on weekends than weekdays and boys more active than girls. But the main finding was that both are well short on internationally-recognised recommended number of daily steps. The research team will be extending the study to include more children in the borough to see if these results are representative, said Dr Hudson. According to national Health Survey for England figures, obesity has risen from 11% of boys and 12% of girls in 1995 to 17% of boys and 16% of girls in 2007. In year six (10-11 year olds) nearly one in three are either overweight or obese nationwide so the new figures from east London do not paint a healthier picture. The news comes in the wake of a separate study at City University in London revealing that some secondary students, also in east London, are skipping lunch so they can fill up on junk food on their way home. According to this study there are 36 fast food outlets per secondary school in Tower Hamlets compared to a national average of 23. Schoolchildren questioned said they found local chip shops in east London offered better value than school meals.