Fat segregation? Obese children should take separate gym classes, health expert says

© John Vizcaino
Overweight kids too embarrassed to exercise should be given separate gym classes, a health expert has suggested, with the program funded by the newly-introduced sugar tax.

Deputy well-being chairman for the Local Government Association (LGA), Richard Kemp, believes classes like “football for the obese” could help overweight children lose weight and re-join their peers for gym class.

Other experts are calling for adverts promoting unhealthy food to be removed from schools.

Kemp welcomed new plans to tax sugary drinks, announced by Chancellor George Osborne during Wednesday’s budget, but said the tax itself is unlikely to help children who are already overweight.

“Those of us who believe we need to do something about our food and our drink were pleased with at least part of the Budget yesterday when the Chancellor announced he will introduce a tax on sugary, fizzy drinks, which we all here know cause so many problems.

“I was talking to a child the other day who just will not do PE [physical education] now because he is ashamed of his own body.

“So we are looking in Liverpool at having special PE sessions for the obese to try and get them to reduce their weight and then go into normal PE.

“Elasticated waistbands are becoming increasingly common so everyone is getting bigger as we are becoming a waddling not a walking country,” he added.

Kemp said body shame is among the key reasons overweight children don’t enjoy fitness sessions.

One of the problems is that all our experience shows that children who are already obese stay away from school sports and fitness activities because they are ashamed of their bodies.

“I believe we need to target the money to prevention but also then taking the obese kids out and doing things for them, swimming lessons for the obese, football for the obese etc. to get them to a level where they are not ashamed of themselves so they can join in with normal activity.

“Common sense says if you are overweight and there’s a fit young person pedaling away on the exercise bike next to you, you don’t really feel that comfortable.”

Dr. Alison Tedstone from Public Health England told Thursday’s local government conference she wants to see junk food adverts restricted and removed.

Sugary drinks are being heavily marketed particularly towards children and they are much more advertised than ever before,” she said.

“The evidence shows that advertising affects the balance of the diet. Those cartoon characters on breakfast cereals drive children’s food choices.”