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Survey: Youngsters getting fatter, not fitter
Latest Updated by 2007-05-09 10:42:10

For 15-year-old Sai He, a student at a Beijing middle school, the prospect of taking a physical test as part of his high school entrance exam last month was a daunting one.

That's because, like a growing number of children in China, Sai is overweight.

"SOS! Where can I find a stimulant to help me get through the physical test?" Sai asked on an online bulletin board. But no one could help.

Fortunately for Sai, he managed to scrape through the physical test, which includes a 1,000 m run and a standing long jump, with a score of 18 out of 30.

According to a survey conducted in 2005, the physical health of China's young people has been in steady decline for the past 20 years, and more and more children are now suffering from weight problems.

The survey, which included more than 13 million pupils from across the country, found that roughly one-quarter of all male students in primary and middle schools in urban areas were overweight or obese.

It also found that 76 percent of all high school students and 83 percent of university students were near-sighted.

The national survey of students' fitness has been jointly conducted by the State Sports General Administration and the ministries of education and health every five years since 1980.

The 2005 survey showed that the average height of urban students aged six to 18 had increased by almost 2 cm compared with the 2000 results. More significantly, the average vital capacity a key measure of lung capacity had fallen by more than 300 ml.

Average values for students' physical resistance, explosive force and muscle strength had also fallen over the five-year period, the survey showed.

Liao Wenke, deputy director of the department of physical, health and art education under the Ministry of Education, said: "Although students have been getting bigger in recent years their physical fitness has deteriorated, indicating a lack of physical exercise."

Li Lite, a professor with the food science institute under the China Agriculture University, said that poor dietary habits and insufficient sleep had also contributed to the worsening of students' physical fitness.

"It is essential to establish healthy dietary habits at a young age because these can benefit a person throughout their whole life," Li said.

"Education on diet should be introduced into primary and middle schools to help children understand the benefits."

Concerned about the poor state of youngsters' physical fitness, the education ministry has urged local departments to increase spending on physical education and provide better sports and fitness programs.

Earlier this year, the ministry launched its nationwide "Sunlight Sport" campaign, which guarantees that primary and middle school students spend at least one hour per day on sports.

Primary and middle schools were also instructed to hire more qualified physical education teachers and to provide PE classes at least three times a week.

Wang Longlong, a physical education researcher with the Ministry of Education, said that PE classes often got cancelled to make time for more academic lessons, as middle schools put "smart brains" first.

"Many parents and teachers are utilitarian and only care about whether their children can get a decent job and earn good money in the future," Wang said.

"The current philosophy in many schools of 'exam results override all' has meant students are concentrating only on their academic scores and not on their health," he said.

Editor: Wing

By:Wang Ying Source:China Daily Website
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