Earlier this year, the “School Physical Fitness Award Scheme” jointly organized by the Education Bureau, the Hong Kong Child health Foundation and the Physical Fitness Association of Hong Kong, China published a report on the physical fitness of our primary and secondary school students in the school year of 2013/14, and the figures were anything but promising.
According to the report, our students’ physical fitness was in general worse than most of their counterparts in nearby regions.
Among the 100,000 students that were studied, 9 percent were rated “obese” and 18 percent “overweight”.
In other words, one in every 10 local students was obese and one in every five was overweight in that schoolyear.
Many in the medical and education sectors have blamed the poor physical fitness of our kids on the overemphasis placed by schools and parents on academic results, lack of physical exercise and overconsumption of sweet and fatty foods.
Now that we have identified the root causes, how can we address the issue?
Perhaps what schools across Japan are doing can offer us some valuable insight into how we can reverse the present trend of deteriorating health among our students.
Recently I watched a television program on RTHK, which gave a glimpse into how Japanese schools are putting painstaking effort into improving the physical fitness of students by promoting healthy diet and regular exercise.
For example, schools in Japan often set standards for the minimum hours of jogging, jump-rope workout and swimming per year which all students are required to meet.
Apart from PE lessons, many schools often encourage their students to exercise during short breaks between other lessons using the recreational facilities provided.
In contrast, the overwhelming majority of students in Hong Kong rarely exercise in school except during their weekly PE lessons.
As far as daily diet is concerned, many schools in Japan have their own kitchens and hire their own dieticians, who are responsible for designing the menus for students.
They also keep food diaries and brief their students on nutritional information and the amount of calories of the breakfast and lunch prepared for them every day.
In the meantime, they also educate students on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and the harmful effects of junk food.
If we can follow the example of Japanese schools and educate our students on healthy diet on a daily basis, then they will not only eat healthy during school time, but also say no to junk food after school.
At the same time, I also suggest our schools to incorporate more educational elements on the importance of a healthy diet into their daily curriculum and encourage students to exercise more in school and after school.
I would also like to urge our schools to implement the “one nurse for each school” program. The nurses can offer their professional opinions on how to promote and maintain a healthy lifestyle among students.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 25.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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