Kids encouraged to exercise more

A booklet sponsored by Shanghai's health authority wants children and youngsters to spend more time on physical activity rather than on digital screens. 

A booklet suggesting physical activity for children, the first of its kind in China, was released in Shanghai yesterday.

“The guidelines were published because the physical condition of Chinese youngsters has been on a decline with rising number of children suffering from obesity and poor sight,” said Jiang Fan, a professor at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

Jiang said the research was sponsored by Shanghai’s health authority which has been looking at ways to improve the city’s public health system.

“We hope the booklet leads to awareness in the society, especially in schools, community and governments, on the importance of physical activity."

A 2016 survey of 100,000 primary and middle school students across China showed that they spent insufficient time on moderate to high intensity physical activity, and too much time on the digital screen every day.

The booklet recommends that juveniles should do at least one hour of physical activities of moderate and high intensity every day, and high-intensity and resistance exercises three days a week to strengthen the muscles and bones.

In Shanghai, schools are required to ensure that students have one hour of physical exercise every day but there’s no specific requirement on the exercise intensity.

The booklet also suggests setting limits of no more than two hours for children in front of screens of devices like television, tablet and smartphone because long-time sitting before screens also poses a health risk.

“If children spend one hour on physical exercise but sit for long every day, it can still affect their health,” said Jiang. “Researchers have found that sedentary behavior can cause obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. We recommend children stand up more for some body movement during class break or when doing homework.”

Jiang said Chinese parents prefer to sacrifice physical activity for academic study.

“But actually, physical activity can play a positive role in studies,” she said. “It is helpful for a child's physical growth and intelligence development.”

Ni Minjing, deputy director of the Shanghai Education Commission, said the guidelines were good references for schools to design their physical education classes and activities.

Chen Peijie, president of the Shanghai University of Sport and a member of the research program, said inadequate facilities were also a problem. 

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