Ireland could be the most obese country in Europe within 15 years, with almost 90% of men likely to be overweight.
MEP Seán Kelly said yesterday the trend could be reversed through sports clubs and other community-led initiatives taking the lead.
He claimed only 19% of primary schoolchildren and 12% of secondary students meet physical activity recommendations put forward by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“In fact recent studies have shown one in four Irish children to be unfit, overweight, or obese,” said Mr Kelly. “Part of the blame for these shockingly low levels of activity among children has been blamed on too little sport during school, so PE time at school must be considered and increased going forward.”
According to the WHO, children and youth, aged 5-17, should accumulate 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity activity daily, with emphasis on the vigorous activity at least three times weekly.
At a Brussels conference on the physical inactivity crisis in Europe, Mr Kelly said he wanted to see a greater level of public financing available to community sports organisations across Ireland and Europe in order to boost the physical activity of people of all ages for a healthier society.
He said the WHO had estimated physical inactivity had been associated with at least 1m deaths per year in the EU. “In Ireland, physical inactivity is a leading cause in 8.8% of coronary heart disease cases, over 10% of Type 2 diabetes cases, and is attributed to 15% of breast cancer and colon cancer cases in Ireland,” he said.
“Apart from obvious health consequences, physical inactivity and the related pressure on our health system costs Ireland about €1.5bn yearly in treatment.
“Worryingly a recent WHO report predicted Ireland will become the most obese country in Europe by 2030 with the number of overweight Irish men expected to reach 89% and a corresponding 85% of women. People’s lives are literally at risk due to physical inactivity.
“Keeping fit with even 30 minutes of exercise a day can transform our physical and mental wellbeing and must become part of our everyday routines in future.”
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