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Concerns grow over China’s obesity rate

Schools in a Chinese city have been unable to break athletic records for up to 40 years, state news agency Xinhua revealed.

The report cited statistics from an unspecified city, where some of the longest-running athletic records – for the women’s 800-metre race, the women’s 100-metre sprint, and the men’s 110-metre hurdles – were achieved in 1977, 1979, and 1981.

The poor sporting records highlights a general trend of declining health and fitness skill among Chinese teenagers nationwide.

Young Chinese students do push-ups in the gym during a summer camp for overweight children in Zhengzhou city, central China’s Henan province (file photo)

Both national records in the reported school were set when food was still sparse and strictly rationed. 

According to China’s Ministry of Education, athletic statistics remaining unbroken is not unique to the north-east – it’s the same across the country. Students’ health and sporting ability have long been deteriorating.

From 1985 to 2005, students’ athletic endurance steadily declined, as did the number of pull-ups and sit-ups they were able to do. 

Around 2013, Chinese schools were given fitness targets in a bid to improve the health of pupils but the government was forced to lower standards because too many children were failing to meet them. 

The Ministry of Education announced that schoolchildren had to engage in at least one hour of exercise every day and introduced annual fitness tests. Pupils must pass a basic level of fitness in order to graduate, it ruled.

The Ministry of Education announced that schoolchildren had to engage in at least one hour of exercise every day.

A Chinese worker measures the height of an obese young student during a physical examination at a school in Shanghai

Left (file photo): Chinese students do physical exercises during a citywide campaign for the prevention of obesity at Jinshan Primary School in Shanghai. Right (file photo): A Chinese worker measures the height of a young student during a physical examination in Shanghai

However, the ministry was then forced to lower its new standards three years ago, allowing more time for Chinese children to finish a 100m run. 

CHINA’S BIG ISSUE: OBESITY IS ON THE RISE 

Prevalence of childhood overweight rose from 1.11 per cent to 9.62 per cent between 1985 and 2010

Overweight and obesity were found to be most common among boys living in urban regions (23.2 per cent)

World Obesity Federation expects China to top the world in childhood obesity in 2025

Obese children aged between five and 18 will reach over 48 million in China in a decade

Source: WHO, CCTV News 

 

Last month, a social media app WeChat reported that 56.9 per cent of would-be soldiers failed to pass their physical exams due to being too fat and unfit for the challenging conditions in the military. 

The attrition rate for the military is now so high that Beijing fears it will not be able to fill the ranks of the world’s largest army of 2.3 million serving soldiers.

The People’s Daily newspaper, said: ‘For the country and the people, [health] is a deciding force in the nation’s future growth and destiny.’ 

It added: ‘The youth is our future backbone. What can we do if we don’t have strong bodies to achieve our great dream of rejuvenation?’

One official report, published in May, found that 12.2 per cent of children over the age of seven were overweight in 2014, compared with 2.1 per cent in 1985.

Obese young Chinese students exercise in the gym during a summer camp for overweight children in Zhengzhou city, central China's Henan province

Obese young Chinese students exercise in the gym during a summer camp for overweight children in Zhengzhou city, central China’s Henan province

The obesity rate for this demographic group also shot up to 7.3 per cent from 0.5 per cent over the last 30 years.

Without intervention, the report predicted that 28 per cent of China’s children, at least 49 million of them, would be either overweight or obese by 2030.

Chinese schools have blamed an increasingly sedentary lifestyle for the rise in obesity rates. 

Schoolchildren are forced to do more homework and attend after school lessons because strict entrance requirements for secondary school and universities are so competitive.

A rise in western culture and social pressures has also been cited as a reason, as so many children are addicted to the internet and playing computer games. 

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