DOHA: A survey on lifestyle habits in Qatar has revealed that most parents are unaware of physical activity and calorie guidelines for children.
The Lifestyles Qatar Survey, sponsored by Maersk Oil Qatar as part of its partnership with Action on Diabetes and the Schools Olympic Programme, looked at physical behaviours of children; perceptions of parents and families’ dietary and lifestyle habits.
About 1,000 parents with children aged between five and 18 years were surveyed this year.
The survey showed that while 72 percent of parents polled do regular physical activity, the majority (61 percent) fall short of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day.
Just under half of those surveyed identified working hours as the biggest barrier to greater activity.
The research found that 90 percent of parents were unaware of health guidelines for children.
While 81 percent of respondents said their children received physical education at school, there was little engagement from parents in supporting and encouraging their children to do sport, with only 30 percent stating that they watched their children play sport regularly.
Herluf Nis Thomsen, Project Manager, Action on Diabetes, said, “A healthy lifestyle is a key part in reducing the risk of diabetes.
“For children, that means regularly eating a balanced diet by developing a suitable dietary plan and routinely being physically active by developing regular exercise habits.
“However, as the survey shows, parents have a role in building healthy behaviours through their own habits and in watching children play sport,” Thomsen added.
The survey of parents is the first step in a larger research project in Qatar to look at the link between healthy lifestyles and performance at school and in sport.
The study showed that the majority of participants forgot healthy lifestyle habits.
There were some positive results about nutrition.
The majority of parents (74 percent) encouraged their children to follow a healthy diet and 65 percent prompted their children to eat breakfast.
However, a third of parents did not know the recommended calorie intake for children and on average children of those surveyed ate less than half the recommended number of vegetables per day.
The survey also found that 30 percent of respondents ate fast food three or more times a week and 29 percent of families allowed children to decide what food to eat at meal times.
The survey indicates that parents are aware of the danger of too much sedentary activity in front of TV, online and playing computer games but appear to be losing the battle with their children.
About 77 percent of parents say they control the number of hours children spend in front of the TV, but over a quarter of children (26 percent) spend between three and four hours watching TV and DVDs each day.
A further 46 percent spend one to two hours playing computer games and 52 percent spend up to two hours on the Internet per day. The Peninsula