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ExerciseNZ Wants To Meet The PM Over Kids’ Activity And Mental Health

Schools are reopening after the summer break and ExerciseNZ wants to see greater efforts to address the serious fact of New Zealand having some of the least physically active children in the world, resulting in high levels of obesity and other health conditions.

The government is offering kids school lunches but ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says not enough is being done to support and foster their activity levels.

“Nutrition (lunches) are part of the solution, so that is positive. About 640 low-decile schools will join 182 existing schools getting free school lunches this year under a $220 million government scheme,” he says.

“But we need a multi-disciplinary and community-led approach. We know 90 percent of New Zealand kids don't NZ do enough physical activity, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Physical activity is more than just being active. Research shows it leads to better education outcomes and more mentally robust individuals which is so important in a covid world. We need to be a much more active nation.

“The British Health Medical Journal says mental health should be a public health priority and a focus on mental health in childhood is important for childhood as well as the whole of the lifespan of a child.

“It is thought that half of adult mental health problems start before the age of 14, so early interventions may reduce long-term damage.

“With greater physical activity, comes better mental health and long-term health outcomes. This is especially important given the financial health issue pressures on the government. Anything that can reduce unnecessary health costs from the Ministry of Health is a win.

“I would like to meet the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Minister of Health Andrew Little and present our suggestions and recommendations on exercise and mental health which, if applied, will show massive benefit for Kiwi children.

“I constantly work with the WHO on physical activity and I know New Zealand is really lagging. If we increase our kids’ physical activity there is a unique opportunity to get this right and the exercise industry is stepping up to offer to help.

“All too often the burden is put on schools and teachers and if the Ministry of Education collaborated with us it would save the country millions of dollars,” Beddie says.

New Zealand is the 13th worst in the world when it comes to inactivity which is leading to a whole range of poor outcomes, such as being the second highest in the world in child obesity.

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