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Tom Watson MP: More support needed to get couch potato kids exercising

By Thomas Parkes | Health | Published:

Getting children to be active is one of the biggest challenges facing the Black Country, it was claimed today.

West Bromwich MP takes part in The Daily Mile at Hargate Primary School

Figures produced by Public Health England earlier this year revealed children in the region are among the most overweight in the country.

And now, new research by Sport England revealed Wolverhampton children are the least active in the country.

Just under 60,000 Black Country children were said to not get enough exercise, with 36,700 Staffordshire children doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a day on average.

It is an issue that is important to Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson.

Call for Government action

The MP has himself shed weight as part of a fitness drive and today said inactivity was a 'huge crisis' in the country as he called on the Government to do more.

The West Bromwich MP said: "Child obesity and inactivity is a huge crisis facing our country.

“As school budgets have been squeezed PE hours have been cut in schools. Pressures on council budgets have meant sports facilities closing. It’s no wonder we have a serious inactivity problem.

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“If the Government is serious about protecting our nation’s health they need to invest to make exercise a daily norm for children from a young age.”

Mr Watson laced up his running shoes to join primary school pupils last month for their daily mile challenge – a national running scheme which aims to get pupils active.

He visited Hargate Primary School to take part and said at the time it was his 'new mission' to help people tackle their unhealthy lifestyles.

West Bromwich MP takes part in The Daily Mile.

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Katy Kent, executive headteacher at St Bartholomew's CE Primary School in Wolverhampton, said the obesity numbers at the school had been high in the past but had fallen because of a new scheme.

She said: "At St Barts there's a high percentage of children's activity in sport.

"For children who do not access anything other than PE lessons, our gym teacher finds out what they like and then puts on special clubs on for them to help them get active. That's really reduced the figures."

Ms Kent said she 'didn't know' the factors behind the reason why children aren't getting enough exercise.

Could 'unhealthy food tax' work?

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's top doctor, called for the Government to tax unhealthy food high in sugar and salt.

In a report, she details plans to create a more healthy nation by 2040 – with a recommendation to extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to sweetened milk-based drinks with added sugar.

The move would eliminate added sugar in commercial infant and baby foods.

The report reveals preventable causes of 50 per cent of chronic diseases – a poor diet, tobacco, drinking too much alcohol and physical inactivity.

Her report reads: "Obesity and obesity-related diseases are among our greatest health challenges. Children and adults in the most deprived communities are at greatest risk of obesity and suffer the burden of obesity-related ill-health earlier, and for longer, than their least deprived peers. Obesity is an inequalities issue."

She recommends any future development of the Childhood Obesity plan include a specific target to halve 'current inequalities' in childhood obesity by 2030 or sooner, with support for councils to meet this target.

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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