lifestyle

The scary link between kids' sport and childhood obesity.

Parents: So they feel more comfortable talking about sport with their kids.

Bad news for every parent who has signed their kid up for a sport in the hope that it will be good for them.

New research has found that joining a sports team might actually be bad for kids. Yeah, really. Bet you never saw that one coming.

You see, playing cricket/soccer/footy is great for the little people in our world. It’s what happens after the game that researchers are actually worried about.

We’re talking about the trips to Maccas after a cricket match at a faraway neighbourhood. The sausage sandwiches munched on after an end-of-season footy final. The lollies and soft drinks and biscuits and chip packets that kids are handed as they finish off another race at the swimming carnival.

It’s these snacks which mean children are eating more calories after matches than they’re actually burning while they exercise. The research study found that those calories are contributing to the increasing weight problems currently faced by children in the western world.

The study, undertaken by US scientists, involved studying a group of boys that played baseball in North Carolina. The boys were all aged eight to 11 and they played 12 games.

When looking at the kids’ snacking habits during the games, the researchers found that most snacks were food items such as cookies and French fries – high in calories, low in nutritional value.

Jospeh Skelton, senior author of the study and an associate professor of paediatrics at a medical center in North Carolina, said:

Though youth sports are an excellent way to promote physical activity, social interaction and positive health behaviours, the food environments are often characterised by less healthy food options with high calorie contents and lower nutrient density.

While this study was one from America, it’s just as relevant here in Australia – especially considering that fast-food outlets sponsor many of the sports that our kids play and watch. McDonald’s, for example, sponsors little athletics; their logo is on every certificate and uniform that a child receives when they participate in little athletics. Kids also receive a free meal voucher when they win something.

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In August 2013 last year, parenting editor Bern Morley wrote:

Here’s what we know. We know junk food is not good for our children. We should know as parents that to let our children have junk food occasionally and as a treat is perfectly fine. We also should know that to feed our children exclusively on a diet of junk food would be neglect, at best.

We also know that institutions like Little Athletics are valuable for both the physical and social aspects they provide. And maybe the fact that McDonald’s is giving back to the community via a healthy avenue is almost like they are getting to offset some of the damage they are doing. But maybe it’s time to change the status quo and call out the blatant hypocrisy.

An opinion poll done by the Obesity Policy Coalition last year found that 69 per cent of Australian adults think that this type of sponsorship should be restricted or banned completely. And that’s because everyone has become so aware of nutrition and how it relates to childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity isn’t a problem that is restricted to the UK and the US. In Australia, it has doubled over recent years; a quarter of kids are now considered overweight or obese.

While there are often genetic factors at play as well, food choices and physical activity are important factors in maintaining a healthy weight, especially in kids, and eating well and moving often lowers the risk of developing diseases such as Type 2 diabetes or cardiomyopathy in the future.

Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy. And most of us don’t really think there’s anything wrong with letting our kids have a sneaky cheeseburger after a game of soccer – after all, they’ve just done all that running around…

But really, it’s scary to think that something as insignificant as a cheeseburger could be potentially cancelling out all the exercise that your child just did.

What do you think about the relationship between junk food and kids sport in Australia?