Our unfit teens face same health risks as 60-year-olds, study finds
Our unfit teens are facing the same heart-disease risk as 60-year-olds, new research has shown.
No Fry Zone 4 Wicklow Kids has called for swift action to prevent health problems among children, particularly by banning fast-food ventures from opening stores near schools.
It comes just after the Government said it planned to introduce "no-fry zones" near schools as part of a 10-year anti-obesity plan.
Research carried out by Dublin City University (DCU) showed that teenagers with a low fitness level have an increased risk of stroke at the age of 15, and a higher chance of vascular disease in later life.
Philip Moyles, chair of the group, said the results were shocking but not unheard of.
"It's not surprising," he told the Herald. "We have done a lot of research on childhood obesity, and the statistics are horrifying.
"One-in-four children aged nine is obese, and if you are obese as a child, it will follow you into adulthood.
"The findings from DCU are not surprising and I think it just reminds us that we need to do something."
No Fry Zones 4 Wicklow Kids was set up by parents in Greystones four years ago, when McDonald's attempted to open a branch close to local schools.
Earlier this week, Health Minister Simon Harris and Minister for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy announced a 10-year action plan to combat obesity.
No-fry zones - or areas close to schools where the presence of fast-food outlets are limited or banned outright - are included in the plans, much to the relief of Mr Moyles and his fellow campaigners who are pleased to see the idea being rolled out nationally.
"We are really happy with the news that no-fry zones are in the plan," he said.
But he stressed that the campaign group would continue to put pressure on local and national officials until the zones came into effect.
"The next step is to make sure it's implemented as soon as possible," he said.
"It's important to remember that there is little real point in setting up no-fry zones if you are still going to have vending machines in or near schools," he added.
Meanwhile, Professor Niall Moyna, of DCU, said there are "potential solutions" to poor fitness among young people.
"The first thing that we have to do is to identify the kids who are at risk," he told RTE Radio 1.
Professsor Moyna, who is best known for his appearances on RTE's Operation Transformation, said the focus should be on encouraging children to take up healthy habits early.
"We spend millions every year trying to change people's behaviour," he said,
He said children should be encouraged to develop healthy behaviours from primary school.