More Kiwi kids being driven to obesity

Last updated 05:00 08/08/2014
Meita Gaeta
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ

TOO RISKY: Meita Gaeta drives her son Rocky to St Francis de Sales School in Island Bay every day because she says it’s not safe for him to walk home. 

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Children now spend half as much time walking and cycling as they did 15 years ago, as the problem of childhood obesity grows.

The Ministry of Transport's latest household travel survey revealed children aged between 5 and 14 spend an average of one hour and four minutes a week walking and cycling.

In 1989-90, they were on their bikes and running around for an average of two hours and 10 minutes a week.

Meanwhile, childhood obesity rates continue to rise.

One in nine Kiwi kids - about 85,000 children - are obese, according to the Ministry of Health, compared with one in 12 in 2006-07.

The Ministry of Transport data also shows the number of children being driven to school has increased significantly over the past 15 years.

In 1989-90, 31 per cent of pupils were dropped off at primary school. Last year, 56 per cent were delivered to the school gate.

Mum Meita Gaeta said either she or her husband drove 6-year-old son Rocky to and from St Francis de Sales School in Island Bay every day, as it was not safe for him to walk.

"I think it's too risky.

"We live only two blocks away but the traffic is too heavy during school time," Gaeta said.

After-school commitments and cold winter weather were other reasons for choosing to drive.

The rising number of children being driven to school has come at the expense of cycling, according to the Ministry of Transport.

In 1989-90, 12 per cent of primary school children biked to school, compared with 2 per cent last year.

Brent Hoy, a salesman at Burke's Cycles in Kilbirnie, said sales of children's bikes had tailed off in the past five years.

The biggest reason parents were not encouraging their kids to cycle was because they felt it was not safe, he said.

"There's probably a lot of kids out there who actually have bikes but don't use them because their parents are worried they'll become a statistic."

Cycling Advocates' Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said some Wellington schools were good at encouraging pupils to cycle but the declining numbers did not reflect well on society as a whole. "It's a scandal, really. We should be ashamed because we're depriving our kids of a normal Kiwi childhood."

Paulien Van Geel, who works with overweight children through Sport Wellington, said it was important for children to be active in order to stave off type-2 diabetes and to develop skills that would help them stay active when they were older.

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- The Dominion Post

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