Parents unaware that sedentary lifestyle risks kids' future health

In collaboration with the Press Association

Parents with young children do not realise that a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet can increase their youngsters' risk of serious health problems in later life, charities have warned.

The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK have launched a new advertising campaign to support the government's Change4Life campaign.

To coincide with the launch of the adverts, the charities have published results from a survey of over 800 parents whose children were aged up to 11 years.

- Ed Yong, health information manager, Cancer Research UK

The survey found that 83 per cent of parents did not know that a lack of exercise in childhood can increase the risk of cancer in later life.

Half were unaware of the link between physical inactivity and type-2 diabetes, and 18 per cent did not know that a sedentary lifestyle increases a person's risk of heart disease.

A worrying 12 per cent of respondents had no idea that physical inactivity was linked to any of these health problems.

Many parents were also unaware of the importance of a healthy diet, with 59 per cent unaware of the link between a poor diet and cancer, 23 per cent not knowing of its link with type-2 diabetes, and 17 per cent not realising its association with heart disease.

Meanwhile, many parents did not know that being overweight in childhood increases a person's future risk of cancer (66 per cent), type-2 diabetes (13 per cent) and heart disease (eight per cent).

Ed Yong, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, said: "Keeping a healthy bodyweight is one of the most important ways of reducing the risk of cancer, after not smoking.

"We know that early habits can follow children into adulthood so it's important to instil the importance of healthy eating and regular activity at an early age. Doing so will mean dramatic benefits for their health down the line."

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, added that the lack of awareness among parents was "frightening".

He said: "We are supporting the Change4Life campaign, which aims to encourage parents to get their children moving more and eating well.

"However, if the government is to deliver on its public health promises it has a major role to play in committing to legislation on restricting junk food advertising and supporting the traffic light system of food labelling, which will go a long way in helping people make informed choices."