Research by the NSW Department of Health has found nearly 25% of Australian children are overweight or obese. This is a serious concern as obese children have a greater likelihood of becoming obese adults.

The Department of Health believes genetics and lifestyle are the determinative factors that play an important role in a child’s weight gain and found they tend to mirror their parents’ eating habits.

Nutritionist Professor Linda Tapsell of the University of Wollongong believes the issue of people’s healthy eating habits “has a lot to do with how much attention they pay to what they are eating.” This only increases the importance of a parent’s role in development of healthy eating habits of their children.

In the fight against this epidemic the National Heart Foundation of Australia has awarded the Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute of Wollongong University a grant to further research and combat this alarming trend.

Dr Dylan Cliff’s research project, Measurement, Patterns, and Determinants of Sedentary Behaviour Among Children, has won the National Heart Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for the next two years and a grant of over $150 000.

Dr Cliff believes his research project will provide “a greater understanding of children’s sedentary behaviour by examining the social and physical factors that influence children’s sedentary behaviour.

“Adolescents are spending an average four hours a day on small screen time, such as television and computers,” said Dr Cliff. “My research would include measuring the benefits of at least breaking that time up with light activity.”

This is a worrying situation for parents who are constantly fighting an uphill battle against the unhealthy marketing campaigns of fast food companies.

Mangerton mother-of-three Olga Seitaridis believes keeping her kids active and healthy is an important part of their development.

“Raising three young kids today is a challenge in itself, let alone trying to keep them healthy and active as well,” Mrs Seitaridis said.

“Keep in mind the importance of after-school activities like sports and arts. They keep your kids active in a fun way and help them grow into healthy adults.”

Words: AMANDA PAPPAS
Video: KRISTINE TARBERT
PHOTOS: AIDEN SIMMONS

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