The Global Obesity Epidemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes obesity as a serious public health problem that threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries. The number of overweight and obese individuals exceeds 300 million worldwide and 22 million children under five are reported to be overweight. These numbers will continue to rise unless large scale action is taken to combat the leading causes of the problem: poor diet and physical inactivity1.
Why Does Reducing Overweight and Obesity Matter?
Overweight and obese people are at increased risk of certain chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. The consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle during childhood are also profound with childhood obesity associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability in adulthood. Compared with healthy children, obese children also experience lower quality of life2 and mental health issues including depression3.
Active Kids Are Healthy Kids
In striving to find a solution for Europe, the European Commission (EC) has emphasised the importance of organised sport as a means to enhancing public health through physical activity. Not only does sport participation provide opportunities for young people to be physically active, but it also encourages healthy behaviours (e.g., diet) and supports their psychological well-being4.
Throughout Europe, most children participate in some form of organised sport, either in school or as part of a youth sport programme or team. Unfortunately, many choose to discontinue their participation when they reach adolescence. Alarmingly, dropout rates are highest for those between 12 and 15 years of age5 leading these inactive teens to enter adulthood as sedentary individuals.