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79 pc school girls at risk of cardiovascular issues!

Afternoon Despatch and Courier 2018-08-09 00:00:00

...boys, however, fared better compared to girls with 59 per cent being unfit, which is little consolation

Medical experts and researchers are 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 has now found that about 79 per cent girls 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 per cent girls find a slot in the healthy fitness zone in terms of BMI.

The study carried out by Fitterfly – a health-tech company based out of Mumbai – covered 15,000 school children, both boys and girls, from 25 schools across Mumbai, Delhi, Navi Mumbai and Thane. Using globally accepted tools and proven technology, Fitterfly, which strives for child wellness, found 68 per cent school children (both boys and girls) in the age bracket of 5 and 17 years on the whole clocking low on stamina, muscle strength, body composition and musculoskeletal fitness.

The boys on these parameters, however, fared better compared to girls with 59 per cent being unfit, is hardly a consolation. The findings come as a rude shock to healthcare experts, teachers and parents, because, children lacking in fitness will find it hard to showcase impressive performances 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,” opined Dr. Arbinder Singal, CEO & Co-Founder, Fitterfly underscoring the need for timely identification of children with low fitness levels and promoting healthy behavioural patterns including enhanced physical activity.

The Fitterfly assessment also revealed the need for 11 per cent 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.

Experts opine that high levels of physical activity are the norm in children and a child’s inability to engage in physical activity 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, renowned educationist and Principal, G.D.Goenka Global School, Noida which was part of the Fitterfly assessment.

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, largely processed food is the iGen intake and while educators are involved in creating awareness, this needs to be more impactful in wake of the statistics documented. Also, fitness and sports has only recently become a thrust area, historically activities were not as physical which is changing now. Hand in glove kind of situation which means we need to make swift changes if we are to give our children a chance”

“The study though confined to the schools of Mumbai, Delhi, Navi Mumbai and Thane 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 include low agility, strength and endurance among girls (44 per cent), increased risk of low muscle strength and agility among boys (65 per cent) and overall risk of low agility, strength and endurance among boys and girls (60 per cent) and the need for boys (35 per cent) to engage in fitness activities.

“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 programmes which are 360-degree fully body physical tests covering stamina (Vo2max), muscle strength, flexibility and body composition. We need to move towards measurable fitness data for children to ensure healthy future for them,” added Dr. Singal.