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'Stark' increase in childhood obesity prompts Cycling UK to renew call to get more kids cycling

Just two per cent of British children cycle to school compared to 50 per cent in the Netherlands

Cycling UK says that getting more children cycling to school should be a public health priority after the Millennium Cohort Study highlighted a ‘stark’ increase in the proportion of children who are overweight or obese between the ages of seven and 11.

The BBC reports that the study of nearly 12,000 children found 25 per cent were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35 per cent at 11.

Children who cycle to school have measurably better concentration than those who don't – study

Cycling UK believes an obvious way to address this is by getting more children on their bikes.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns, said: “Almost 50 per cent of children make their school journey by bike in the Netherlands – in the UK it’s just two per cent. It’s therefore no surprise that we see such a disparity in childhood obesity levels.

“Getting more young people cycling to school should be a public health priority. Primary schools can now use proceeds from the ‘Sugar Tax’ to encourage active journeys to school. They need to do this and government must consider extending this to secondary schools.”

Last month we reported on the Beacon School in Banstead where pupils were informed that they would need number plates on their bikes if they wished to cycle to school.

Headteacher Keith Batchelor explained that the system would, “allow us to target cycle training and safety awareness sessions to our students” and “to reward good and safe cycling by giving members of the community a way to give us feedback about how our students are using the roads locally.”

More recently, Sandringham School in St Albans said it would suspend children if they were caught riding to school on the pavement. It also said that no child would be allowed to cycle to school without a helmet, promising that regular checks would be carried out to enforce the rule.

A school travel plan had made reference to parents and residents parking on the road outside the school, blocking cycling lanes. Dollimore suggested that the new rules were created instead of an effort to make it easier and safer for children to cycle to school.

In March, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called for schools to be car-free zones in a bid to combat air pollution. Such measures are already in place at a number of schools in Hackney as part of the School Streets initiative.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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18 comments

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 6 years ago
0 likes

@BTBS - I'd vote for those proposals. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of vested interest in keeping the majority as lazy and stupid as possible.

Avatar
burtthebike | 6 years ago
4 likes

Cycling is a magic bullet, and the health effects of regular cycling include reducing obesity, as many dozens of reports have proved.

What I don't understand is why the BBC, and some others, will not, apparently under pain of death, mention this fact.  Listening to R4 while working and there was an item about obesity on Woman's Hour, which talked only about food, no mention whatsoever of exercise or cycling.  This is absolutely typical of any BBC prog I've seen or heard; they just will not mention the health effects of cycling, whilst droning on forever about walking and food, and they've been promoting helmets for thirty years.  Why does the BBC hate cycling?

Avatar
Ambobob1 | 6 years ago
5 likes

How about some positive news about school cycling? Kesgrave High School near Ipswich has around 2000 pupils, over 60% of them cycle to school and is positively encouraged by the school. In the 40s-50s the school would lend a bike to children living further away.
Most of this is due to a 1930s cycle path along the main road where the school stands with a subway into the school. A further network of segregated paths was also designed into a large estate which was developed from the late 80s to the present. Build it and they will come!

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
1 like

I remember I had a couple of 'puppy fat' years at secondary school, were I was considered fat by the lovely classmates. I was probably less than a stone overweight. I think the definition of fat has somewhat changed now and not for the better. 

I actually get pissed off when I see young lads in their late teens and early 20s and they look like shit. Get a grip and don't waste your prime. 

Avatar
Grahamd | 6 years ago
0 likes

The education system shares a large amount of blame for failure to accommodate let alone encourage "play time", now it is break time, no balls allowed, keep off the grass, no you can't use all weather surface but you can buy sweets from vending machines or sugar rich food from the cafe. 

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 6 years ago
2 likes

Late stage capitalism. Only rich people can afford to be healthy.

Avatar
LastBoyScout replied to hawkinspeter | 6 years ago
6 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Late stage capitalism. Only rich people can afford to be healthy.

I never understood how heavily processed junk food somehow costs less than the healthy, raw ingredients.

Avatar
burtthebike replied to LastBoyScout | 6 years ago
0 likes
LastBoyScout wrote:

I never understood how heavily processed junk food somehow costs less than the healthy, raw ingredients.

Like bread for instance.  Wholemeal always costs more, sometimes a lot more, than white bread.  Why?

Avatar
fukawitribe replied to burtthebike | 6 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:
LastBoyScout wrote:

I never understood how heavily processed junk food somehow costs less than the healthy, raw ingredients.

Like bread for instance.  Wholemeal always costs more, sometimes a lot more, than white bread.  Why?

A lot of junk food is cheap because it's packed with sugar as a bulk agent - sugar is reasonably dense, attractive to the body as an energy source and dirt cheap.

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds replied to LastBoyScout | 6 years ago
4 likes
LastBoyScout wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Late stage capitalism. Only rich people can afford to be healthy.

I never understood how heavily processed junk food somehow costs less than the healthy, raw ingredients.

Stupid lazy parents propagate too many stupid lazy children, many destined to never educate themselves/drag themselves up above their parents level. Coming from a very very large council house estate as a youth I saw this first hand. 30+ years later things are worse not better, educational levels are shockingly low, yesteryears chavs/thickos have brought up kids and they in turn are laying the foundations for their own with the 'farm foods' style of cooking pissing their benefit money away on turkey twizzlers for their kids.

It's all too much effort for many to actually cook, they don't understand or don't want to listen to how spending a few minutes cooking will save them money and make them and their kids healthier. you only need to see the whole Jamie Oliver thing with the school meals to see how stupid people are.

I was involved in improving school meals long before JO jumped on the bandwagon, he failed to have any understanding of where he needed to start and got the backs up of the very people who were important in producing the food, he failed to grasp that stupid lazy set n their way people rarely want to change and if allowed to will do everything they can to baulk and continue on as they are.

Just like getting people out of cars and onto bikes there has to be interventions from higher up to make change, kids need to have food ed be compulsary from infant school to high school. Junk food and how confectionary, soft drinks loaded with sugar etc really needs looking at in terms of availabilty, content and advertising. Junk food adverts during kids TV is horrendous.

Schools/LA and County/National gov need to stop looking at how to produce meals the cheapest and think about the bigger picture, you can replicate certain junk food in a way that is tastier, more nutritous and doesn't leave kids wanting to eat more shit. Sales of crisps/carb loaded shite in schools should be stopped and parents banned from sending their kids to school with them too or they be confiscated and the parents called in (see what I did there re the cycling to school thing a few weeks back).

There are so many ways this can be changed but those in charge are inept and don't want to make tough decisions that would benefit everyone and be financially beneficial to the country too.

Want to get more kids cycling.

1. ban cars/motors from driving into a 800m zone around schools 1 hour before start and 1 hour after school end with driving bans/fines for parents OR build 3m wide cycle lanes everywhere to schools from residential areas with priority for crossings and 15mph speed limits. Make driving to school seem anti social.

2. Remove car parking space from schools, build cycle parking at every school that is fot for purpose, this means easy access, secure and covered from the elements. My sons school had this and the site manager would look up the covered bike area so ZERO chance of a bike being stolen/tampered with, he opened it for lunch and locked it and opened it again for end of school day. This was stupidly removed after my son left and now there is 80% fewer kids cycling to school than 10 years ago!

3. NO HELMETS OR HI-VIS, definitely no number plates.

4. Cycle training, again, removal of the compulsary helmets nonsense.

5. Disciplinary measures against teachers/heads etc that display traits of victim blaming/punishing kids unlawfully.

Avatar
burtthebike replied to BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:
LastBoyScout wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Late stage capitalism. Only rich people can afford to be healthy.

I never understood how heavily processed junk food somehow costs less than the healthy, raw ingredients.

Stupid lazy parents propagate too many stupid lazy children, many destined to never educate themselves/drag themselves up above their parents level. Coming from a very very large council house estate as a youth I saw this first hand. 30+ years later things are worse not better, educational levels are shockingly low, yesteryears chavs/thickos have brought up kids and they in turn are laying the foundations for their own with the 'farm foods' style of cooking pissing their benefit money away on turkey twizzlers for their kids.

It's all too much effort for many to actually cook, they don't understand or don't want to listen to how spending a few minutes cooking will save them money and make them and their kids healthier. you only need to see the whole Jamie Oliver thing with the school meals to see how stupid people are.

I was involved in improving school meals long before JO jumped on the bandwagon, he failed to have any understanding of where he needed to start and got the backs up of the very people who were important in producing the food, he failed to grasp that stupid lazy set n their way people rarely want to change and if allowed to will do everything they can to baulk and continue on as they are.

Just like getting people out of cars and onto bikes there has to be interventions from higher up to make change, kids need to have food ed be compulsary from infant school to high school. Junk food and how confectionary, soft drinks loaded with sugar etc really needs looking at in terms of availabilty, content and advertising. Junk food adverts during kids TV is horrendous.

Schools/LA and County/National gov need to stop looking at how to produce meals the cheapest and think about the bigger picture, you can replicate certain junk food in a way that is tastier, more nutritous and doesn't leave kids wanting to eat more shit. Sales of crisps/carb loaded shite in schools should be stopped and parents banned from sending their kids to school with them too or they be confiscated and the parents called in (see what I did there re the cycling to school thing a few weeks back).

There are so many ways this can be changed but those in charge are inept and don't want to make tough decisions that would benefit everyone and be financially beneficial to the country too.

Want to get more kids cycling.

1. ban cars/motors from driving into a 800m zone around schools 1 hour before start and 1 hour after school end with driving bans/fines for parents OR build 3m wide cycle lanes everywhere to schools from residential areas with priority for crossings and 15mph speed limits. Make driving to school seem anti social.

2. Remove car parking space from schools, build cycle parking at every school that is fot for purpose, this means easy access, secure and covered from the elements. My sons school had this and the site manager would look up the covered bike area so ZERO chance of a bike being stolen/tampered with, he opened it for lunch and locked it and opened it again for end of school day. This was stupidly removed after my son left and now there is 80% fewer kids cycling to school than 10 years ago!

3. NO HELMETS OR HI-VIS, definitely no number plates.

4. Cycle training, again, removal of the compulsary helmets nonsense.

5. Disciplinary measures against teachers/heads etc that display traits of victim blaming/punishing kids unlawfully.

I'm sure that's all fascinating and vital stuff, so any chance of summing it up in a couple of sentences so I can find time to read it?  Succinct is always better.

Avatar
simonmb replied to burtthebike | 6 years ago
1 like
burtthebike wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:
LastBoyScout wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Late stage capitalism. Only rich people can afford to be healthy.

I never understood how heavily processed junk food somehow costs less than the healthy, raw ingredients.

Stupid lazy parents propagate too many stupid lazy children, many destined to never educate themselves/drag themselves up above their parents level. Coming from a very very large council house estate as a youth I saw this first hand. 30+ years later things are worse not better, educational levels are shockingly low, yesteryears chavs/thickos have brought up kids and they in turn are laying the foundations for their own with the 'farm foods' style of cooking pissing their benefit money away on turkey twizzlers for their kids.

It's all too much effort for many to actually cook, they don't understand or don't want to listen to how spending a few minutes cooking will save them money and make them and their kids healthier. you only need to see the whole Jamie Oliver thing with the school meals to see how stupid people are.

I was involved in improving school meals long before JO jumped on the bandwagon, he failed to have any understanding of where he needed to start and got the backs up of the very people who were important in producing the food, he failed to grasp that stupid lazy set n their way people rarely want to change and if allowed to will do everything they can to baulk and continue on as they are.

Just like getting people out of cars and onto bikes there has to be interventions from higher up to make change, kids need to have food ed be compulsary from infant school to high school. Junk food and how confectionary, soft drinks loaded with sugar etc really needs looking at in terms of availabilty, content and advertising. Junk food adverts during kids TV is horrendous.

Schools/LA and County/National gov need to stop looking at how to produce meals the cheapest and think about the bigger picture, you can replicate certain junk food in a way that is tastier, more nutritous and doesn't leave kids wanting to eat more shit. Sales of crisps/carb loaded shite in schools should be stopped and parents banned from sending their kids to school with them too or they be confiscated and the parents called in (see what I did there re the cycling to school thing a few weeks back).

There are so many ways this can be changed but those in charge are inept and don't want to make tough decisions that would benefit everyone and be financially beneficial to the country too.

Want to get more kids cycling.

1. ban cars/motors from driving into a 800m zone around schools 1 hour before start and 1 hour after school end with driving bans/fines for parents OR build 3m wide cycle lanes everywhere to schools from residential areas with priority for crossings and 15mph speed limits. Make driving to school seem anti social.

2. Remove car parking space from schools, build cycle parking at every school that is fot for purpose, this means easy access, secure and covered from the elements. My sons school had this and the site manager would look up the covered bike area so ZERO chance of a bike being stolen/tampered with, he opened it for lunch and locked it and opened it again for end of school day. This was stupidly removed after my son left and now there is 80% fewer kids cycling to school than 10 years ago!

3. NO HELMETS OR HI-VIS, definitely no number plates.

4. Cycle training, again, removal of the compulsary helmets nonsense.

5. Disciplinary measures against teachers/heads etc that display traits of victim blaming/punishing kids unlawfully.

I'm sure that's all fascinating and vital stuff, so any chance of summing it up in a couple of sentences so I can find time to read it?  Succinct is always better.

Is it?

Avatar
simonmb | 6 years ago
6 likes

A fifth of children in Amsterdam are overweight and at risk of future health problems* - so cycling isn't a 'magic bullet'.

A real priority is preventing food and drink manufacturers from peddaling harmful products with zero-nutrition. Nanny-state? Perhaps. But the populous at large have shown they're incapable of making informed decisions for themselves.

We can't make people ride a bicycle, but we can enforce manufacturers to support a healthy society. I really don't want to see my taxes go towards extending the lives of folk who didn't read the label on the packaging. That's not what the NHS was etablished for.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/14/amsterdam-solution-obesity-crisis-no-fruit-juice-enough-sleep

Avatar
dodpeters replied to simonmb | 6 years ago
10 likes
simonmb wrote:

We can't make people ride a bicycle

No we can't, but we have made conditions so bad that the vast majority consider it to be too dangerous.

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet replied to dodpeters | 6 years ago
2 likes
dodpeters wrote:
simonmb wrote:

We can't make people ride a bicycle

No we can't, but we have made conditions so bad that the vast majority consider it to be too dangerous.

But round and round this will go. People (who drive) perceive cycling to be too dangerous because of people who drive. Maybe one day the penny will drop and they'll all stop close-passing etc and have a rethink about getting on a bike. 

Wood for the trees and all that.

Avatar
davel replied to Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
6 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:
dodpeters wrote:
simonmb wrote:

We can't make people ride a bicycle

No we can't, but we have made conditions so bad that the vast majority consider it to be too dangerous.

But round and round this will go. People (who drive) perceive cycling to be too dangerous because of people who drive. Maybe one day the penny will drop and they'll all stop close-passing etc and have a rethink about getting on a bike. 

I don't think the penny will just drop. I think it'll have to be forced down, much like simonmb says about food.

And the worrying thing, for me, is that being a kid in the 70s/80s, most kids had bikes, and you ran and cycled everywhere. Parents didn't keep their kids in because cycling was dangerous. I don't want to lapse into 'jumpers for goalposts' and all that nostalgia, but the kids from my estate used to fight with the kids from across the road over a shitty field to play our own games of football on, at least monthly, until civilisation broke out and we decided to have us v them matches...which pretty much always degenerated into fights.

And from that cohort, a very small subset ride bikes as 30/40 year-old adults, and our modal share is 2%. 

Now, imagine how much less active/bikey kids are now. One or two fat kids per class has become 1/3 of all kids. From that cohort, which gets driven everywhere and grows up in households that think riding a bike is 'too dangerous', the cyclists of the future will come. And if my cohort hasn't produced many adult cyclists, today's will produce even fewer outliers.

Left to its own devices, this is the trend. Less bike, more car. Less veg, more fat. It'll take massive 'nanny-state'ing to turn it on its head.

Avatar
Bluebug replied to davel | 6 years ago
1 like
davel wrote:
Yorkshire wallet wrote:
dodpeters wrote:
simonmb wrote:

We can't make people ride a bicycle

No we can't, but we have made conditions so bad that the vast majority consider it to be too dangerous.

But round and round this will go. People (who drive) perceive cycling to be too dangerous because of people who drive. Maybe one day the penny will drop and they'll all stop close-passing etc and have a rethink about getting on a bike. 

I don't think the penny will just drop. I think it'll have to be forced down, much like simonmb says about food.

And the worrying thing, for me, is that being a kid in the 70s/80s, most kids had bikes, and you ran and cycled everywhere. Parents didn't keep their kids in because cycling was dangerous. I don't want to lapse into 'jumpers for goalposts' and all that nostalgia, but the kids from my estate used to fight with the kids from across the road over a shitty field to play our own games of football on, at least monthly, until civilisation broke out and we decided to have us v them matches...which pretty much always degenerated into fights.

And from that cohort, a very small subset ride bikes as 30/40 year-old adults, and our modal share is 2%. 

Now, imagine how much less active/bikey kids are now. One or two fat kids per class has become 1/3 of all kids. From that cohort, which gets driven everywhere and grows up in households that think riding a bike is 'too dangerous', the cyclists of the future will come. And if my cohort hasn't produced many adult cyclists, today's will produce even fewer outliers.

Left to its own devices, this is the trend. Less bike, more car. Less veg, more fat. It'll take massive 'nanny-state'ing to turn it on its head.

I recently did a sugar free month and guess what? I could eat nothing processed as virtually everything has some form of sugar  in it. If I didn't know the name of an ingredient I looked it up and yep it was a form of sugar. 

Lots of processed food is actually fat-free but they replace the fat with sugar in various guises. So the problem isn't fat but sugar in everything.    The government refuses to legislate to force food manufacturers to reduce it or take it out even when some of them have asked for it.

Added to that in lots of urban areas kids live in flats without access to gardens and open play areas.  Even when people lived in  overcrowded homes when I was young in the at the end of the last century, children had large gardens and open spaces to play in whether they were owned individually or communally.  However most importantly you didn't have to go to them with a parent or a carer. 

Avatar
arowland replied to simonmb | 6 years ago
2 likes
simonmb wrote:

A real priority is preventing food and drink manufacturers from peddaling harmful products with zero-nutrition.

'peddaling' LOL

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