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Thursday, September 10, 1998 Published at 00:42 GMT 01:42 UK


Kids want fitness - the easy way

Many children do not take enough exercise

Children want a healthy lifestyle but do little to make themselves fit, according to a new survey.

More than 1,200 children aged between 11 and 16 were asked about their attitude towards health and fitness.

Tony Newman of Barnardo's: Results of survey are encouraging
The youngsters said they wanted more information on how to be healthy - but they did not want to be lectured by adults.

There were some encouraging signs that young people take health issues seriously.

Smoking was thought by most youngsters surveyed to be "uncool". Two-thirds thought the government should introduce tougher regulations, including a price increase and a ban on smoking in public places.

One-third thought the age at which youngsters can legally buy cigarettes should be raised to 18.

And more than half said they would like to see fruit and veg on sale at burger bars and fast food restaurants.

The survey also found:

  • Seven out of ten said they would take more notice if television adverts and school talks were devised by young people

  • Seven out of ten considered themselves "fairly fit"

  • Most said they exercised, but less than a quarter did more than six hours a week

  • Only 14% said they followed Department of Health guidelines and ate five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day

  • Most youngsters knew that eating the right food was good for them

  • But only six out of ten said they did not eat fruit and veg every day because "I just don't like them"

  • Almost half said they would eat more of these foods - if they tasted nicer

  • More than one-third blamed bad diets on parents and schools

Get fit scheme

The research was commissioned by the children's charity Barnardo's and pharmaceutical firm Glaxo Wellcome.

The two have joined forces to launch a £3m scheme to recruit young people to spread the message that a healthy lifestyle is a good idea to their peers.

[ image: Children want healthy alternatives]
Children want healthy alternatives
The Right Fit fund will provide cash to youngsters who come up with innovative ways to promote healthy living.

It has the backing of health workers and government departments trying to encourage children to eat more healthily, keep away from cigarettes and do more exercise.

Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of Glaxo Wellcome, said: "The most important lesson from the survey is that young people don't want to be preached at.

"If we want to make a real difference to the health and fitness of this generation, then we need a fresh approach inspired by young people."

Tony Newman, acting head of research at Barnardo's, said he was encouraged by the attitude of young people.

"Clearly we were talking to a group of children who were very well informed," he said.

"They want to have a say in how to put health promotion programmes into action."

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