Bhubaneswar: EduSports’ latest Annual Health Survey which was launched 9 years ago to understand the overall health and fitness levels of children in schools revealed that children are displaying alarmingly poor fitness levels across India. The nationwide study has covered 1,53,441 children within the age groups of 7 years to 17 years in 279 schools across 113 cities and towns in 21 states.
The survey assessed the fitness levels of the children on the various parameters and revealed some interesting findings:
- Body Mass Index (BMI): Is a value derived from the weight and height of an individual and is used to gauge whether a person is within a healthy weight range.
- Aerobic capacity: The ability of the heart and lungs to get oxygen to the muscles.
- Anaerobic capacity: The total amount of energy from the anaerobic (without oxygen) energy systems.It is useful during high intensity short duration exercises or tasks such as sprinting.
- Abdominal or Corestrength: Strength of the muscles of the torso which helps to determine posture.
- Flexibility : The ability of one’s joints to move freely.
- Upper body strength : The strength of muscles such as Pectorals (chest), Rhomboids (upper back), Deltoids (outer shoulder), Triceps (back of upper arm) and Biceps (front of upper arm).
- Lower body strength : The strength of muscles in the legs such as quadriceps (the muscles on the front of the upper leg), Hamstrings (the muscles on the back of the upper leg), Gluteals, Hip Flexors, and Calf muscles.
The study showed that only 60% of the children had healthy BMI. Although the current data is alarming, there has been a 50 %(40 % to 60 % of children having healthy BMI)increase in the number of children with a healthy BMI. There has also been an improvement in the number of children having ideal upper body strength (50 % increase), flexibility (33 % increase)and anaerobic capacity (100 % increase).
Private schools vs. government schools
The survey further shows that only 47 % government school children had a healthy BMI (as compared to 61% for private school children). The percentage of government school children who are underweight is exceedingly high (39 %) as compared to private school children (15%). Despite this, government school children are healthierthan the private school children in various fitness parameters such as lower body strength, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
Across all regions more than two-third of the children do not have healthy BMI. The northern, western, central and southern parts of India all have shownclose to40 % of children having poor BMI. The east lags behind with 51 % childrenhaving unhealthy BMI.
Fitness levels comparative analysis: Girls versus boys
The survey further shows that girls fared slightly better with 63% of them having healthy BMIas compared to 59 % of the boys.Girls were observed to be fitter than boys in several fitness parameters such as upper body strength, abdominal strength and flexibility.However, the boys outscored the girls in the fitness parameters of lower body strength and aerobic capacity.
Importance of schools in maintaining fitness
Although the study shows a cause for concern, it also highlights the ways in which we can rectify the situation. A comparative fitness assessment for all childrenwas done before and after their annual summer break. It was observed that during break, there was a drastic drop in the fitness levels of children across all the parameters.This shows that schools play an important role in helping to keep children healthy. When children lose access to the sports infrastructure and regular sports programs that schools provide, their fitness is negatively impacted.
Mr. Saumil Majmudar, CEO and co-founder, EduSports says “Although the high percentage of unhealthy children is alarming, we still have an indication of how we could rectify the situation. The study reinforces the idea that schools, by providing play spaces, act as catalysts for maintaining the fitness of children. In the current context, when there is a lack of safe play-spaces in many cities, schools are the only places where children have the opportunity to play. This also reinforces the need and importance of effectively utilizing and structuring any available play time in schools so that all the children benefit from the program – and not just the school teams.”