Physical activity and Obesity in Children

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Achievement Standard 90743Alice Wood
Childhood obesity and physical activity – Is there an issue? “Critically examine a current physical activity or trend or issue and explain in detail its impact on New Zealand society.” Part A
Childhood obesity and physical inactivity is a rapidly growing problem in New Zealand society. One in five New Zealand children are overweight, and one in twelve are obese (Palmer, 2008). Childhood is defined as ‘the state of a child between infancy and adolescence’, Obesity is defined as ‘a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health which can lead to reduced life expectancy and increase health problems’, and physical activity is defined as ‘any bodily movement produced by a skeletal muscle that requires energy expenditure.’ (Savage, L. 2012)Throughout the first section of this essay, I will be examining the existence of childhood obesity and inactivity in New Zealand by taking a look at the effect of nutrition, physical activity and media on this issue.

One of the major factors that can contribute to obesity is nutrition. A healthy diet is required to maintain a healthy weight, in conjunction with appropriate exercise. A healthy diet consists of a balance between the intake of protein, carbohydrates, dairy products and fruit and vegetables. A balanced diet is obtained by consuming the correct amounts of foods from all four of these food groups. Kidspot, an online parenting resource in New Zealand, suggests the following serving portions for each food group, for children of four to eleven years old: 3-6 servings of grains, 4-5 of fruit/vegetables, 2 of fruit, 3 of dairy, and 1 of protein. Examples of foods from each group on the food pyramid include: apples, bananas and pears for fruit; potatoes, peas and carrots for vegetables; chicken, fish and eggs for protein; bread, pasta and rice for grains; milk, yoghurt and cheese for dairy (Kidspot New Zealand, n.d.). An unhealthy diet occurs when an individual receives an unbalanced intake of these food groups, with an excess of some products such as fats and sugars, as well there being a lack of fruit and vegetables. This has an adverse effect of the individual’s body, as they will become deficient in some vital vitamins and minerals, and they will develop excess fat and an unhealthy increase in body weight. In New Zealand, unhealthy food is consumed far too often because people are becoming too busy to have the time to cook their own healthy meals. Fast food is much more convenient to acquire and is quick, cheap and easy. This is one of the major reasons why New Zealanders are consuming so much fast food, and therefore becoming more obese, and I will expand on this point further on.

The other major factor that contributes to obesity is physical activity. Physical activity requires energy to be performed, which means that it is a good way for an individual to use the energy that they have taken in as food throughout the day, as well as burning excess energy in their body to help them to lose weight. The lack of physical activity in New Zealand children is seen to be a huge factor that contributes to their obesity rates. Children in New Zealand are becoming increasingly physically inactive, as they are spending more time inside doing activities that do not burn energy such as watching television, and less time doing physical activity such as walking to school or playing sport. Less than half of children walk, bike or skate to school – most go by car; also, two out of three children usually watch two or more hours of television a day (Palmer, 2008). Both nutrition and physical activity can contribute to an individual’s body weight, because the two factors are related; the more an individual eats, the more physical activity they need to do. This is so that they use the energy that they have consumed in order to prevent it from being stored as body fat. As soon as these...
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