Small steps boost children's health

Helping children lose weight can be as basic as getting them to walk to school, or just dropping them off half a kilometre away rather than at the school gates.

Harold Scruby, from the Pedestrian Council of Australia, says it is trying to find ways to get parents to keep away from the "kiss and drop zone", especially when so many kids live around only 1.5 kilometres from their school.

"We've got to somehow get them out of the car earlier," he says.

And he says the lack of walking in country areas is even worse than our cities, where the urban sprawl can be a huge disadvantage.

"It's not even half an hour out of your day. What's the investment worth?" Scruby asks.

It has been estimated that if you walk 15 minutes a day you add three years to your life, he says.

"But these kids aren't even getting half a minute a day.

"It's proven unequivocally [children are] far more productive and creative if they've had a bit of exercise.

"If they come to school in an armchair they are not properly equipped to handle the day."

His organisation has been working with people in less affluent areas and their research is showing people are gradually walking more to school.

Scruby was speaking after a breakfast organised by the health insurance company, Bupa, to release the Bupa Health Pulse 2012, a global study which is conducted annually across 13 countries involving 14,528 surveys among adults about their health.

Imogen Randell, the managing director of Quantum Market Research, says the study showed that while Australians feel relatively positive about their health, the reality is that half of them are overweight or obese.

"Parents recognise that they are a prime source of information for their children living a healthy lifestyle (71 per cent) but with 26 per cent obese and 30 per cent overweight, the challenge is they are not leading by example."

TV shows such as The Biggest Loser don't help, popular as they are. She says they have a "normalising effect" and are not about prevention, but rather about requiring intervention.

Elements including portion size, the way food and entertainment mix, food as rewards and social trends impact our health today.

And one in 10 parents surveyed don't speak to their children about their health at all and rated other family members, school, the internet and the media as other sources for their children's health messages. AAP

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