Combatting Childhood Obesity – where are we now?

19 May 2016


All Playforce playgrounds are designed with one thing in mind – giving children a chance to learn and enjoy their time spent outside.  We understand that not all play areas should be focused on activity, but integrating it into the learning day is a great way to get children thinking of active, outdoor time as a positive, natural part of their daily lives.  And this plays an important part in combatting childhood obesity.  If you’re seeking inspiration, have a look at some of our case studies.


Since we published our Combatting Childhood Obesity report, in 2012, and our Healthy Children report, in 2013, we’d like to say that we’ve noticed a huge march forward in the battle against childhood obesity.  Both reports highlighted statistics from the National Child Measurement Programme, which measures the height and weight of around one million school children in England every year, providing a detailed picture of the prevalence of child obesity.


But the figures in the latest report show that far from a big improvement, little has changed:

  • In reception, a fifth (21.9 per cent) of the children measured were either overweight or obese. 
  • In year 6 around a third (33.2 per cent) of the children measured were either overweight or obese. 
  • The obesity prevalence among reception year children living in the most deprived areas was 12.0 per cent compared with 5.7 per cent among those living in the least deprived areas. In year 6 these figures were 25.0 and 11.5 respectively.
  • The prevalence of obesity was higher among boys than girls in both school years.
  • In reception, 9.5 per cent of boys and 8.7 per cent of girls were classified as obese.
  • In year 6 the percentages were 20.7 per cent and 17.4 per cent respectively.
  • The South East, South West, East of England and East Midlands had lower obesity prevalence than the national average in both school years while the West Midlands, London and the North East had higher obesity prevalence in both school years.
  • Obesity prevalence was significantly higher in urban areas than in rural areas for each age group.
  • Obesity prevalence was significantly higher than the national average for children in both school years in the following ethnic groups:
    • ‘Black or Black British’ (14.7% in reception and 27.9% in year 6)
    • ‘Any Other Ethnic Group’ (11.0% and 24.4%)
    • ‘Asian or Asian British’ (10.0% and 24.1%)
    • ‘Mixed’ ethnic group (9.9% and 21.2%).


The Royal Society for Public Health published a paper (and call to action) in November 2015 that hits at the heart of this.  In it they explained:


“Childhood obesity has proliferated in recent decades in part due to children living increasingly sedentary lifestyles where physical activity has declined and activities such as watching TV, playing video games and time spent on smart phones has increased.  In 1995, the average child spent three hours a day in front of a screen, compared to six hours today.”


The RSPH report called for 120 minutes of physical activity, in all schools, every day, for every child. 


Here at Playforce we have long championed the need for greater physical activity in schools. However, we’d like to see this ‘recommendation’ for two hours of activity a day become mandatory and include not just break times but also lesson times.  What about taking learning outside so that other lessons become active?


We’ve written a follow up guide to our Combatting Childhood Obesity report and you can download it here.


In addition, to get you started, we’ve created a helpful guide with tips for taking lessons outside.

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