Restricted movement taking obesity toll on Fukushima kids

JIJI

Children from Fukushima Prefecture continue to show high obesity rates due to the impact of the nuclear plant calamity that continues to restrict their outdoor activities, education ministry data showed on Friday.

The proportion of obese children in Fukushima was the highest of all the prefectures in six out of the 13 grades from kindergarten to high school in fiscal 2013, which began last April.

The outcome is closely linked to restrictions on children’s outdoor activities and changes in their lifestyles after they had to evacuate or transfer to other schools due to the triple-meltdown catastrophe that started in March 2011 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, said officials at the ministry and the prefectural board of education.

The proportion of children from the prefecture who are at least 20 percent heavier than the standard, calculated by age and height, was above the national average for all 13 grades. The figure for Fukushima was the highest for six grades and between second and fourth for the remaining seven grades.

Between fiscal 2006 and 2010, the proportion was the highest of all prefectures in no more than one grade. In fiscal 2012, the number soared to seven grades.

According to the prefectural board of education, the number of public schools imposing restrictions on children’s outdoor activities due to radiation concerns decreased to 56, or 7 percent of the total, as of May. The decline did not change the children’s lack of exercise, however, according to the board.

“We aim to reinforce guidance on eating habits, as well as improving children’s physical strength,” a prefectural official said.

On a nationwide basis, the average proportion of obese children has remained almost flat since fiscal 2011. The average height has remained at the same level for around 10 years, while the average weight has declined slightly since fiscal 2006, according to the survey.