Fighting childhood obesity – a struggle!

Our nation is getting fatter!

Our diets are getting worse!

We aren’t active enough!

Our children are overweight and inactive!

An obesity epidemic is sweeping the nation.

The government is investing £millions in ‘Street Play’ to pay for streets to be occasionally closed to encourage children to play out without the dangers of traffic.

When the latter was announced in the press (, I had to laugh. Is this really going to make a difference? Walk around any street in your neighbourhood and let me know how many children you see ‘playing out’. Will closing the street once or twice a year in a very limited number of streets make a difference?

Cast your mind back to your childhood. How often at the tender age of 5+ would you be out playing with friends or by yourself all day. Do our children do the same? Mine don’t. But why is this? Is it that we as parents have become scared by ‘stranger danger’ or the increase in traffic levels over each decade or have we grown lazy and simply found it easier to pay £££s to take them to soft play areas where our offspring can play in a sheltered environment whilst we socialise and enjoy a branded Latte? We want convenience in our lifestyles and in our diets too.

I want to make a small difference. I’ve seen what a positive impact parkrun has had on many lives and want to focus on our children. junior parkrun is aimed at 4-14 year olds and consists of a regular 2km timed run in a safe environment. In order to start a junior parkrun, set up funding is required. That’s roughly £3000 but is a one-off fee which pays for equipment, training and ongoing event support. Forever.

I’ve contacted the local councils and even local businesses who want to build stronger ties with their communities (through their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes) but am struggling to get anywhere. If funding is available, the fund holders don’t just want the junior parkrun but another lead in activity such as several running groups/courses organised that lead into the junior parkrun. I don’t have the time.

I know that budgets are tight, councils are cutting jobs, etc, etc. In reality, £3000 is not a lot of money. Also, the cost of fighting obesity is massive. The NHS is already struggling.

Of course, things are being done… The Government have set aside £1.1M for ‘Street Play’. That’s enough to start 366 junior parkruns. That’s almost double the number of normal parkruns we currently have in the UK. At a local level, there are estimates that it costs 10p to clean up a piece of chewing gum. Imagine how much it costs each local council to do this. Several years ago, it was reported that £150M is spent on cleaning up chewing gum off of the UK’s streets. That’s enough to open 50,000 junior parkruns. Why mention chewing gum? I just want to put things in perspective.

If we want to reverse the trends on obesity, we need to take real action. Now. Parents need to change their lifestyles and the lifestyles of their children. This makes common sense. We need to encourage physical activity in our children outside the school environment where they are more likely to enjoy participating amongst their peers. I hated ‘PE’ at school because I really wasn’t any good at it. This lead to many years of not having any interest in sport. I am hoping that my children will, through their involvement in parkrun, feel very different.

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