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New study reveals 94% of children in the UAE understand the factors behind healthy living despite rising childhood obesity levels

Sunday, April 29, 2018/ Editor -  

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  • A recent study conducted by Oman Insurance and Bupa Global unveils healthy living awareness and habit-forming trends among 6-11-year olds in the UAE
  • Healthy living workshops led by leading expert from Bupa Cromwell Hospital were conducted at Repton School with pupils and parents to encourage healthy eating and fitness as childhood obesity continues to rise

29th April 2018 United Arab Emirates:  A new study, conducted by Oman Insurance and Bupa Global, unveiled today that children in the UAE have impressive knowledge around healthy eating and wellness despite rising childhood obesity levels.

The study found that 64% of children are aware that 30 minutes is the minimum recommended time to exercise every day.

94% of children are aware that healthy living is about eating a balanced diet inclusive of all food groups, as well as exercising every day and sleeping well.

Furthermore, almost seven out of ten children can differentiate the different food groups, and can tell which groups make up a balanced diet. 

The study, conducted this month, looked at healthy living awareness levels and factors that influence the behaviour of children when it comes to developing and keeping healthy habits .

It was conducted ahead of a series of healthy living workshops held today at Repton School in Dubai.

The workshops, led by Dr. Amulya Saxena, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Bupa Cromwell Hospital in the UK and a renowned expert on childhood obesity, promoted healthy living amongst Repton’s students. 

Speaking about the survey findings and the workshops, Karim Idilby, General Manager for Bupa Global in Africa, India and the Middle East, said: “The level of awareness of healthy living amongst the children surveyed, is surprisingly high given the rising UAE obesity rate. However, there are still noteworthy gaps, such as only 31% knew that obesity or diabetes can start as young as six years old.

These gaps need to be addressed to help children and their families live longer, healthier and happier lives.

For this reason, together with our partners at Oman Insurance, we’ve organised these healthy living workshops.

We hope to be able to make a difference by encouraging small but important changes to children’s diet and fitness by equipping them with the information they need to make more health-conscious decisions.”

Mr David Cook, Headmaster at Repton School shares some insights: “The main reasons for childhood obesity include: easy access to unhealthy food, an increase in children's portion sizes, the rise of social media and children spending more time on their phones rather than outdoors.

However, childhood obesity is a global problem, not just a local one. Great efforts are being made around the world, in the UAE and on a home front here at Repton, where we offer a structured health education programme that focuses on health and wellbeing.

We have also seen a growing trend in more pupils participating in sports and physical activity over the last few years which is very promising, yet, there is always room for more and a need for constant education and encouragement.”

When it comes to habit-forming Dr. Amulya Saxena shares his expertise: “Children between ages six and 11 are at a key developmental phase in their life, both emotionally and physically.

This is when children start forming their habits.

It is very important to start building healthy habits in children as early as possible so they stand the best chance of forming lifelong habits.

Parents should also try and become good diet and fitness role models for their children as they will be more likely to mirror this behaviour.”

Additional findings from the Oman Insurance and Bupa Global study include:

  • When asked to choose what counts as exercise, most children chose the answers: ‘playing sports at school’, ‘running around with friends’, followed by ‘walking at the mall’. However, 24% of children believe one of the following to be exercise: ‘playing video games’, ‘thinking really hard’, ‘watching a football match on TV’ or ‘reading a book’. 
  • 60% of children would eat healthier food and exercise more if they received more time and affection from their parents. Signs of affection such as hugs, and time spent together were identified by children as more motivating than pocket money, permission to stay up late, or new toys. 
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of children see their parents as their biggest role models.
  • 84% of children surveyed knew that obesity meant having excess body fat from eating unhealthy food and not exercising enough. Whilst 87% also correctly identified diabetes as ‘when my body doesn't know what to do with carbohydrates and sugar, and needs medicine to help it’.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dr. Saxena’s three top tips for parents when it comes to fostering and maintaining healthy living habits include: 

1.    Read nutrition labels and limit the child’s intake of sugar. Children between the ages of four to six years old should only have 19 grams of sugar (five sugar cubes) daily, whereas for children aged seven to ten years the maximum intake is 24 grams of sugar (six sugar cubes). Children aged 11 or older should not exceed 30 grams of sugar (seven sugar cubes) per day. 

2.    Be aware of the child’s body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms (kg) by the height in metres (m), and then by dividing the answer by the height again. If the child’s BMI is below 18.5, it means the child is underweight. If the child’s BMI falls within the values 18.5–24.9, it means the child’s BMI is healthy. However, if his or her BMI exceeds 25, then the child is considered overweight, and needs help and support to reach a healthier BMI.  
3.    Children should eat five fruits or vegetables and exercise at least 30 minutes every day. For example, whilst a healthy dinner is cooking, accompany them for a 30-minute walk.   

The initiative was run by Oman Insurance and Bupa Global in collaboration with Repton School, as part of their ongoing commitment to help people live longer, happier and healthier lives.


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