Family cooking lessons and fun exercise could be the key to cutting childhood obesity

April 16, 2014

Organising cooking lessons for parents and children and planning extra exercise classes in school time are some of the activities that have shown promise in preventing obesity in primary school aged children, a University of Birmingham study published today has shown.

The study looked into a range of interventions across eight primary schools in Birmingham, in a bid to find out which types of activity were most acceptable to children, parents and staff – and which were the most feasible to carry out. More than 1,000 children aged between six and eight-years-old took part in the activities. The researchers chose schools with high proportions of children from a South Asian background, as national childhood surveillance programmes have shown that children from South Asian ethnic groups are more likely to become overweight whilst at than others, and are more likely to suffer the health effects of obesity in adulthood.

Six interventions were included in the study, and these included physical activities within the school day, an incentive scheme to encourage physical activity away from school, attendance at a course run by a Premier League football club, cooking courses for family members, taster sessions for families at local leisure centres and community walking programmes.

Schools were paired up and divided into intervention and comparison groups so the outcomes from the interventions could be compared across the two groups. When the children were followed up two years later, it was found that children who received the interventions were less likely to become overweight or obese.

The physical activities held within the school day were found to be particularly acceptable to all – teachers, parents and children, with parents feeling their children were undertaking a noticeably larger amount of exercise. Cookery classes for parents and children in school time also proved popular and the researchers found evidence that the classes influenced confidence and cooking practices.

The one intervention which was found to be neither acceptable or feasible was community walking programmes. There were a lack of volunteers to become trained walk leaders to initiate the walking programmes even where there was initial interest.

Some components of the study were acceptable to children, parents and teachers but were not feasible as the co-operation from outsiders was not able to be maintained – such as giving children special stickers for a chart each time they visited local leisure facilities.

Following on from this study, university researchers have refined the programme of activities to include only those that are feasible to deliver and acceptable to families and schools. They are currently running a large trial to determine how big an effect the programme has in terms of helping young children to avoid obesity. 

Prof Peymane Adab, Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Birmingham, said: "These activities have the potential to make a real difference to the future health of our ".

Explore further: Experts: Gym gone but not forgotten? Parents want more physical activity at school for kids

More information: "Preventing childhood obesity, phase II feasibility study focusing on South Asians: BEACHeS." Peymané Adab, Miranda J Pallan, Janet Cade, Ulf Ekelund, Timothy Barrett, Amanda Daley, Jonathan Deeks, Joan Duda, Paramjit Gill, Jayne Parry, Raj Bhopal, K K Cheng. BMJ Open 2014;4:4 e004579 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004579

Related Stories

What's motivating child's play?

April 16, 2013

Altering parents' and teachers' notion of risk taking behaviour can significantly increase children's physical activity suggests a study lead by University of Sydney researchers.

Community-based programs may help prevent childhood obesity

June 17, 2013

When it comes to confronting childhood obesity, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conclude that community-based approaches are important. A systematic review of childhood obesity prevention ...

Parents should team with kids to encourage exercise

March 5, 2014

Parents can help motivate kids to be more physically active, but the influence may not result in an improvement in their children's body mass index (BMI), finds a new evidence review in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Parents feel limited in ability to prevent child obesity

April 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—Parents want to help their children avoid obesity but feel limited in their ability to take action, according to a study published online April 3 in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Preventing ...

Recommended for you

A metabolic master switch underlying human obesity

August 19, 2015

Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges of the 21st century. Affecting more than 500 million people worldwide, obesity costs at least $200 billion each year in the United States alone, and contributes to potentially ...

Scientists probe obesity's ties to breast cancer risk

August 20, 2015

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for breast cancer, but researchers haven't figured out what connects the two. A new study suggests the link may be due to a change in breast tissue structure, which might promote breast ...

Can a new drug brown the fat and trim the obese person?

May 28, 2015

New research has found that a variant of a drug used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension prompts weight loss in obese mice. Among mice fed a high-fat diet, those who did not get the medication became obese while medicated ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.