Obesity in the UK: Better PE lessons can help us slim

School offers a real chance to teach children to exercise. We shouldn't keep squandering the opportunity

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The Independent Online

England has a massive problem – literally. Three in four people in some parts of the country are overweight or obese, according to Public Health England, an organisation which likes telling us how bad public health is.

A top ten of the country’s fattest towns and cities shows that large people outweigh their thinner counterparts in number as well as pounds. Forget Top of the Pops, this calorie-laden chart is more like Eat Till You Pop, with Cumbria’s 63 per cent overweight rate leading the way. And it’s not as if Scotland and Wales are a picture of health either: overweight people count for about 60 per cent in both regions.

The good news is that, according to a representative from the National Obesity Forum, the figures will give local authorities a better chance of fighting obesity. What a total life-sapping disaster. We’ve got so many chronically overweight people in England that we need an official National Obesity Forum. Now, local authorities will have to sort out the mess when they could have prevented it in the first place. How? By ensuring that schools in their jurisdiction taught kids how to exercise and eat well in actually useful games lessons.

Ultimately people have to take responsibility for themselves but school PE lessons have to take their share of the blame. These lessons are a real chance to teach children to exercise. This chance is usually squandered. Instead, kids are forced to play sports they are uninterested in, and those who might enjoy it often have some bitter old teacher yelling in their face. Sure, some kids prefer traditional games, but those that don’t end up standing around on a freezing pitch. Yet another interminable game of rounders won’t teach you anything.

This is about more than fitting into skinny jeans. The obesity crisis will cost the country millions in healthcare. How many of these overweight people could be contributing to the country instead of eking out an unsatisfactory existence before dying young?

We’d be better off giving kids the option of interval training and Pilates classes, as well as netball and football “lessons”. Stuff the notion of PE giving kids a taste for competition. The only competition we’ve got now is who can die the fattest.

Louise Scodie is a presenter for London Live