Health and fitness attitudes and lifestyle habits of urban children in South Africa

D Morar, Y Coopoo, I Shaw, B S Shaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    South Africa is experiencing an ever-increasing incidence of hypokinetic diseases in both child and adult populations. As such, this study attempted to determine the health and fitness attitudes and lifestyle habits of children in South Africa since positive attitudes and habits have been shown to improve the health status of children. This is especially important since many childhood risk factors, such as childhood obesity, correlate with adult risk factors for common chronic diseases. Nine hundred and sixty children were randomly selected from three different socio-economic suburbs in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa to complete a questionnaire on exercise and sport, physical education classes and teachers, health education classes, nutrition and health and lifestyle habits. Statistical analysis consisted of descriptive statistics to determine frequencies and percentages in addition to computation of cross-tabulations. It is evident that in terms of health, fitness and lifestyle habits, the socio-economic backgrounds of the children played a pivotal role in the differences in the children?s responses to the various questions. In this regard, differences were found in the availability of resources and facilities, children?s attitudes towards exercise and sport, the frequency of the exercise they engaged in, their participation in school sport, nutritional habits, food preferences, snacking habits, breakfast and meal routines, their perceptions of how people stay healthy or get sick, the activities they would engage in during their free time and to enjoy a healthy lifestyle and their television viewing habits. The results obtained from the health and lifestyle habits of children revealed that children seem to know the various factors that influence their health and what they should or should not do in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, children do not practise those positive attitudes and habits during their free time. The findings of the present study demonstrate that children cannot assume the responsibility of taking the knowledge they have gained during their health education lessons and putting them into practice in their everyday lifestyle. Based on these findings, the compulsory nature of Physical Education in schools must be ensured and the subject must be taught equally across the different socio-economic areas. This study also revealed that there is an urgent need for strategies that will ensure equal standard of sporting facilities at all schools.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)102 - 112
    Number of pages11
    JournalAfrican Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance
    Issue numberSuppl 2
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Cite this