Fight against childhood obesity

Virgin Active is one of the official partners of the 2010 Kellogg’s Health of the Nation 50-Hour Sports Challenge. The event, which will see more than 6,000 children trying to keep a ball in motion for 50 hours, highlights the importance of physical activity.


Robyn Moore, National Manager for Virgin Active’s Club V, a child friendly exercise area located at the clubs nationwide, says the importance of physical activity is often overlooked.

"The years of early development through to adolescence are the only ones which build the potential of good physique through interactive play and communication. It is of utmost importance that children keep moving and are having fun at the same time."


South Africa is hot on the heels on the United States and the United Kingdom when it comes to childhood obesity. It is estimated that 20% of the country’s children are either overweight or obese. Moore says this is very alarming.

"The main contributing factors which lead to obesity are inactivity, poor diet and education. It cannot be stressed enough that children need to be kept active if we are serious about addressing the problem in South Africa. Each year more and more children are diagnosed with some form of diabetes – a result of obesity."


Brad Bing of Sporting Chance, the youth sports development agency that conceived and co-ordinates the 2010 Kellogg’s Health of the Nation 50-Hour Sports Challenge, concurs.

"All children should be exposed to sport and physical activity, as research has shown that you develop your habits for the rest of your life by age 12. Chances are that if you are not leading an active lifestyle, being physically active will most likely not be important to you as an adult. The Health of the Nation research that we pioneered proved that."


Moore offers the following advice to parents: 

  • Your child should partake in at least one to two hours of structured and unstructured play per day.
  • Structured play is typically the games, sporting skills and play environment which is included in the schools life orientation curriculum as well as what is offered by our Club V Max’s.
  • These classes consist of organised games or movement programmes that can be assessed and are generally directed by an adult.
  • Unstructured play is generally free play and imaginary play that children can organise themselves, often including ball games, bike riding or just having fun climbing trees with their friends.


Benefits of structured play

• Introducing your child to new ideas and opportunities
• Enhancing their development and learning abilities
• Supporting healthy brain development
• Increasing physical and social skills
• Providing experience in cooperation, self-discipline and perseverance
• Developing a positive self-image
• Building team skills.

Moore also emphasises that one should introduce your child to a variety of exercises: aerobic activity, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility.

Examples of these exercises for children include bike riding, playing sports, enjoying a family walk or mountain hike, an outing to the park or joining a family friendly exercise class.

"Ensure your child eats a variety of healthy foods especially fruits and vegetables; this will provide their bodies with vitamins and minerals that they need for energy each day. Fruits and vegetables also help their digestive system by giving them some needed hydration and roughage.

"They can help improve your child’s mood and help them fight off disease. Teach them proper nutrition when they are young and they will be more likely to eat the right kinds of foods for the rest of their lives."

Moore adds, "Make sure that your child is adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water - children often forget to drink or to tell you that they need to drink. In many instances when children start getting grumpy toward the afternoon, it might be because they're dehydrated. Common symptoms of dehydration are moodiness, headaches, aches in the joints and weariness. If a child says he/she is thirsty, dehydration has already begun, they need hydration as soon as possible."

Above all she says, ensure that your child has fun when exercising; this will in turn motivate them to do more of it.

For more information on Virgin Active, or Club V and Club V Max at Virgin Active, visit or call 0860 900 211.


The Kellogg’s Health of the Nation 50-Hour Sports Challenge takes place in Cape Town from the 17-19th September before heading off to Johannesburg. This leg of the event will take place from 15-17 October. Schools or individuals wishing to participate in theeventcan onto for more information.

(Press release, September 2010)

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