Published: 11:55, 16 June 2020
| Updated: 11:58, 16 June 2020
A Kent children’s charity fears lockdown could fuel the childhood obesity crisis.
The KM Charity Team says current events are driving a sedentary lifestyle in the county’s youth – presenting a risk to their health and wellbeing.
Chief executive, Mike Ward, said: “Kent was in a health crisis even before COVID-19, with a quarter of reception-age children overweight.
“And now for months there have been restrictions on children’s primary means of being active – schools, clubs, playgrounds, and socialising with friends.
“Young people have spent a long time cooped up indoors bored and stressed and, as a result, eating more food.
“It’s a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.”
According to the 2018/19 National Child Measurement Programme, 24.7% of reception pupils in Kent are overweight or obese – just above the national average of 22.6%.
The highest percentages are in Dover, Gravesham, and Thanet, while the lowest are in Ashford, Canterbury, Sevenoaks, and Tunbridge Wells.
The picture worsens at year six with 32.2% of Kent pupils overweight or obese.
“We must take action,” said Mr Ward. “Schools are ideally placed to motivate children towards healthier lifestyles – and that’s where we can help.”
The KM Charity Team has generated more than seven million green journeys in its 20-year history thanks to its award-winning walk-to-school programmes.
Mr Ward added: “Green travel gets children into healthy habits, keeps vehicle-related emissions down, and improves safety at the school gates.”
And he believes it is crucial for parents and guardians to reinforce the message.
“I know many are suffering lockdown fatigue,” he said. “But I urge families to prioritise daily fresh air and exercise - whether it’s walking to school or a family stroll - to maintain energy levels and mental wellbeing.”