‘Fat camps’ to slim obese Chinese children

August 1st, 2010 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 1 (IANS) Summer vacation for Chinese children is not a time to laze around any more, for many kids, obese and flabby, are now turning up at “fat camps” in an effort to change their futures.
Children of age nine years and above are now spending their time grunting and puffing away on exercise machines in numerous exercise rooms in Beijing. But even when their limbs begin to tire out or exhaustion sets in, their coach tells them to slow down - but never to stop.

“Keep moving,” Yu Haitao tells one youngster.

The children have been put on the gruelling exercise regime to help them lose their excess fat before the new school semester begins in September. Life at the camp is isolated from the outside world. Parents are not allowed to visit and the children are prohibited from going out.

Only a few of them have volunteered for this camp, while the majority have been sent by parents who are willing to shell out 9,280 yuan ($1,444) for the month, Xinhua reports.

“I take care of everything, from getting the children out of bed at 7 a.m. to stopping them from fighting over which television programme to watch. It’s like being a full-time babysitter,” says Yu, a fitness coach with more than 10 years’ experience.

Liu, a charming, chubby 16-year-old, is a self-described “fat girl”.

“I want to have a nice figure so that I can look gorgeous in nice dresses,” she says.

That means at least four hours of exercise every day and a low-calorie diet.

The exercise is mostly monotonous jogging or speed walking on treadmills, with a few dancing classes and stretching exercises.

“I was down and homesick when I first got here, but I did not miss home so much later when training began and I became familiar with the others,” says Liu, who weighs 73 kg.

Two weeks at the camp has so far helped Liu to lose only seven kg, but she is “quite happy with the outcome”. “I have learnt to resist the temptation of soft drinks. Even during the break times, I want to find ways to lose more weight, instead of just sitting around.”

On weekends, Yu takes them hiking: “It’s a way to refresh their bodies and minds to get ready for the next week’s challenges.”

Yu says this is exactly what the camp is trying to teach these kids: a return to healthy living.

“Fighting obesity is in some way saying no to all your past bad habits. You have to identify what you did not like before and convince yourself that you are doing the right thing,” he says.

These children are only a fraction of China’s growing number of obese children, estimated at 120 million in 2009, according to a report by the Association for Student Nutrition and Health Promotion.

A World Health Organisation report said China could lose $558 billion of national income till 2015 to diabetes and heart disease, which are closely related to excess weight or obesity.

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