Despite the growing popularity of sugary beverages and high-calorie foods, the obesity rate among the nation’s elementary-school students has decreased by more than 2 percentage points over the past decade, according to a study released by the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) yesterday.
The administration’s latest Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan showed that 26 percent of elementary-school pupils were overweight or obese between 2013 and last year, a 2.2 percentage points drop from 28.2 percent in 2001 and 2002.
Young boys appear to be more susceptible to becoming obese than girls. The survey found 32 percent of them were overweight, compatred with only 20 percent of their female counterparts.
Moreover, only the obesity rate among female students experienced a decline from the 2001-2002 study, from 24.2 percent. The rate among boys moderately increased from 31.8 percent.
“Research shows that overweight children are 50 percent more likely to become obese adults. The survey has prompted many schools to take action by offering healthier lunches to students and incorporating more exercise, not only during physical education classes, but also during other periods of the day,” HPA Community Health Division researcher Lin Chen-su said.
The WHO recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity a day and 420 minutes a week for children and teenagers.
With that goal in mind, Lin said the agency recently joined hands with four elementary schools to launch a program called “Running Kids.”
Under the program, the participating schools have to establish a certain number of laps around a track they plan to achieve in a month’s time and invite as many students and faculty members as possible to help reach that goal.
“Since May 1, Tainan’s Da-gang Municipal Elementary School has accumulated 50,000 laps, which is nearly equivalent to the distance between Taiwan and Barcelona, Spain,” Lin said.
HPA Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said she hopes that the program can motivate more children to make regular exercise a habit and to pass that habit on to their parents.
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