Super fit Boris says we must tackle the obesity timebomb

If there is anyone who has fought to promote sport for kids, it is Boris Johnson, both in his speeches and by taking part.  In the Daily Telegraph today, Boris tells us his master plan for beating the obesity time bomb. He begins: borisrugby2

“The City Hall health team bounded into my office the other day – eyes bright, teeth gleaming, not an inch of surplus fat anywhere – and they said, hey, we’ve got some good news and we’ve got some bad news. They told me the good news first. It seems that people in London are living longer than ever before; in fact, average life expectancy has gone up by an average of seven years since 1990. We are not only enjoying ever-riper old ages – we are blessed with more years in good health, able to bottle plums and watch box sets and play with our grand-children in an extended sunlit autumn. There are parts of London where the average life expectancy at birth is now somewhere in the late 90s, they said.

Incredible, I said, and asked them the explanation. Was it better diet? Monkey glands? Royal jelly? Were people in London now subsisting like Caucasian hermits on a diet of almonds and goats’ yoghurt? The health team said there were many factors at work, and they were not sure they could claim credit. Never mind, I said. You leave that to me. So what’s the bad news? They coughed and looked at each other. The bad news, they said, was that this ever-increasing longevity was about to come to an end, and indeed would very likely go into reverse. There was a crisis brewing in the younger generation, they said; a health crisis that would seriously restrict their chances of living as long as their parents. And I knew what they were going to say.

We all know. You only have to look around you. We are all getting fatter and fatter, and the figures for primary school kids are frightening. When they go into the reception class, about ten per cent of children are classed as obese. When they leave at 11 they have put on so much weight that the obesity rate is running at 20 per cent and climbing.

I tried for a few minutes to calm the health team down. Perhaps, I suggested, humanity was just evolving into a new normal. Perhaps one generation’s endomorphs would be the next generation’s mesomorphs. Perhaps we would look back at this period, and class it as the emergence of a new species of quivering lardbutts: homo sapiens crassus. I wondered whether we should just stop worrying, and learn to love our shapes, to stop being so judgmental – but I am afraid they weren’t buying it

Yes, of course we should avoid being rude or judgmental, they said: but the reality is that we have an obesity time-bomb. If we go on like this we will have an epidemic of diabetes – and they started to recite some of the horrors of that increasingly prevalent disease, the ulcerations and amputations; and by this stage I could see they were right.

The NHS is already spending an extra £10 billion a year on dealing with totally preventable ailments that are the consequences of obesity. Jeremy Hunt has identified it as the single biggest challenge we face in public health. But before you all despair I want to suggest a solution, or a part-solution; one that will not only help our kids lose weight but will define the difference between One Nation Tories and the Loony Left who have taken over the Labour party.

It is time to begin a campaign – a crusade – for sport in schools. I was watching the rugby at Twickenham on Saturday night, and though the final scoreline was a bit painful you had to admit that it was a great, crunching game: the sort of game to inspire young people to take up the sport. And so it is utterly heart-breaking to read of the schools who are dropping rugby for safety reasons, or to visit the schools where they never get to handle an oval ball at all. Where does that leave all the kids like me, who couldn’t dribble the ball with our feet but loved the chance to pick it up and run with it?

Well, I suppose there’s tennis – but look at what is happening there. We have a world-beating player in Andy Murray, a role model, a man with legions of fans of both sexes and all ages. And yet the head of the Lawn Tennis Association told me the other day that the number of under-18s playing tennis had fallen by 10 per cent – in one year! It’s not about facilities, or coaching, he said: it’s just about trends – about what young people find it cool to do. They are not getting into the habit of playing sport when they are very young – or at least only a few of them are.

There is a massive gulf between the expectations in the maintained sector, and the amount of sport that is offered in fee-paying schools. Thanks to the Government, a primary-school child will now get about two hours of sport a week. But in a fee-paying school they play for hours every day. No wonder those schools are so disproportionately represented in national teams.

It is time to back our brilliant minister for sport, Tracey Crouch, and push school sport to the very front of the political agenda. Why shouldn’t kids play – as they do in China – half an hour of organised games every morning? They get to school at, say, 8.30am, and peeep, they run around under supervision, doing football, sprints, netball, touch rugby, British bulldog – it doesn’t matter – until it is time for class.

What is the obstacle? It is mainly the Lefty teaching unions, and their ideological aversion to compulsory competitive games. They should be faced down. Daily organised sport would be fantastic for children’s concentration, for their intellectual performance, for their health and ultimately for their longevity.

We are seeing a generation of kids who are growing up with health risks exacerbated by the lack of physical exercise, and the ones most affected – the most obese – are naturally the poorest. It is a scandal. Spreading school sport is a matter of simple social justice.

It is time to back our brilliant minister for sport, Tracey Crouch, and push school sport to the very front of the political agenda. Why shouldn’t kids play – as they do in China – half an hour of organised games every morning? They get to school at, say, 8.30am, and peeep, they run around under supervision, doing football, sprints, netball, touch rugby, British bulldog – it doesn’t matter – until it is time for class.

What is the obstacle? It is mainly the Lefty teaching unions, and their ideological aversion to compulsory competitive games. They should be faced down. Daily organised sport would be fantastic for children’s concentration, for their intellectual performance, for their health and ultimately for their longevity.

We are seeing a generation of kids who are growing up with health risks exacerbated by the lack of physical exercise, and the ones most affected – the most obese – are naturally the poorest. It is a scandal. Spreading school sport is a matter of simple social justice.”

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