NAVI MUMBAI: Medical experts and researchers have repeatedly worried about declining health parameters among the school-going children in the country, particularly in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and other metros. Close on the heels of such concerns, an independent study by medical experts has now found that about 79% schoolgirls are on the brink of developing potential health risks which include cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases. The only silver lining in the story is that 59% girls find a slot in the healthy fitness zone in terms of BMI (body-mass index).
The medical study has covered 15,000 school children, both boys and girls, from 25 schools across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane and also Delhi. Using globally accepted tools and proven technology, it was found that 68% school children (both boys and girls) in the age brackets of 5 and 17 years clocked low on stamina, muscle strength, body composition and musculoskeletal fitness.
The boys on these parameters, however, fared better compared to girls. The findings come as a rude shock to healthcare experts, teachers and parents, because, children lacking in fitness will find it hard to showcase an impressive performance either in academics or in the sports arena.
“The findings are a food for thought because child fitness is one of the most significant health markers. Medical research shows that fitness in childhood is a predictor of morbidity and mortality for diseases. Poor fitness in childhood is actually linked to 26 diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and many more,” said Dr. Arbinder Singal, an expert urologist, pediatrician of Fitterfly.
Navi Mumbai has large open spaces and new schools coming up. We must ensure that schools focus on fitness of children and get objective data on how fit they are. This is the only way we can have healthy future for city of 21st century as Navi Mumbai is often called. We urge NMMC to make fitness test mandatory in all schools in Navi Mumbai,” said Dr Singal.
The medical assessment also revealed the need for 11% girls to urgently work on improving their aerobic capacity to get into the fitness zone since their current stamina levels are abysmally low due to sedentary lifestyle. The medical experts have urged the schools and also the parents to ensure that the children, especially girls, play outdoor sports, and generally remain physically active, as low physical activity in kids is often seen as the first indicator of childhood disease and an impending health disaster that await her in adulthood.
“The findings are really disturbing. We’re now in the process of working on improving child fitness by enlisting the support of parents and by deploying appropriate tools and revamping our existing physical education system. As doctors and educators we have to jointly work to improve the figures,” said Nidhi Sirohi, educationist and principal of G D Goenka Global School.
Fatima Agarkar, a prominent educationist and co-founder of KA EduAssociates, said, “We have noticed in schools that only a small percentage eat a well-balanced meal. Healthy diet is vital in the wake of the statistics documented. Also, fitness and sports has only recently become a thrust area, historically activities were not as physical which thankfully is changing now.”
“The study presents a general picture about children’s health in India’s leading cities. Lifestyle changes including poor nutrition and large-scale inertia are now a global and national trend. So, it would be safe to assume that fitness levels of children in other parts of the country may not tell a different story,” said Dr Nitin Shah, senior pediatrician from Hinduja Hospital and past president of Indian Academy of Pediatrics.
Other findings of the survey include low agility, strength and endurance among girls (44%), increased risk of low muscle strength and agility among boys (65%) and overall risk of low agility, strength and endurance among boys and girls (60%) and the need for boys (35%) to engage in fitness activities to avoid the risk of obesity.
“Notwithstanding the findings, child fitness can improve by adopting international best practices and methodologies aided with latest technology. It would also be a good idea to engage school children in fitness assessment programs which are 360-degree fully body physical tests covering stamina (Vo2max), muscle strength, flexibility and body composition. We need to move towards measurable and trackable fitness data for children to ensure healthy future for them, added, Dr Singal.