New Users Registration  |  Useful Links  |  FAQ  |  Site Map 
Go Search


Skip Navigation LinksHealth Xchange > News
  2013 2015   Dec 2015 | Nov 2015 | Oct 2015 | Sep 2015 | Aug 2015 | Jul 2015 | Jun 2015 | May 2015 | Apr 2015 | Mar 2015 | Feb 2015 | Jan 2015 |
  2013 2014   Dec 2014 | Nov 2014 | Oct 2014 | Sep 2014 | Aug 2014 | Jul 2014 | Jun 2014 | May 2014 | Apr 2014 | Mar 2014 | Feb 2014 | Jan 2014 |
  2013   Dec 2013 | Nov 2013 | Oct 2013 | Sep 2013 | Aug 2013 | Jul 2013 | Jun 2013 | May 2013 | Apr 2013 | Mar 2013 | Feb 2013 | Jan 2013 |
  2012   Dec 2012 | Nov 2012 | Oct 2012 | Sep 2012 | Aug 2012 | Jul 2012Jun 2012May 2012Apr 2012Mar 2012 | Feb 2012 | Jan 2012 |
  2011   Dec 2011Nov 2011Oct 2011 | Sep 2011 | Aug 2011Jul 2011Jun 2011 | May 2011 | Apr 2011 | Mar 2011 | Feb 2011 | Jan 2011 |
  2010   Dec 2010 | Nov 2010 | Oct 2010 | Sep 2010 | Aug 2010 | Jul 2010 | Jun 2010 | May 2010 | Apr 2010 | Mar 2010 | Feb 2010 | Jan 2010 |
  2009   Dec 2009 | Nov 2009 | Oct 2009 | Sep 2009 | Aug 2009 |
  Health Policy and Announcements | Diseases and Outbreaks
  Medical Research | New Treatments and Technology
  Singapore   SingHealth | Health Promotion Board | Ministry of Health | Asiaone
  International   World Health Organization | Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
  News Article  

Exercise over diet

  Sunday, 29 l 05 l 2011  Source: The Sunday Times   

Increasing physical activity is a healthier option to help a child to shed weight than diet restrictions 

diet-over-exerciseParents should not restrict their overweight toddlers’ diet because this might affect their growth, Singapore doctors say. Instead, they should get their children to exercise to shed the excess weight. So they should not follow the example of Hong Kong actor Nicholas Tse and his wife, actress Cecilia Cheung. On the advice of their child’s doctor, they put their second son, Quintus, on a special diet to restrict his food intake, reported Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao Daily last month. The boy is not even 12 months old and already weighs 14kg, more than 3kg of the maximum ideal weight for a one-year-old child, according to paediatricians the Hong Kong newspaper quoted.

If Quintus were in Singapore, his parents would have been advised differently. Associate Professor Lee Yung Seng, senior consultant at the University Children’s Medical Institute in the National University Hospital, advises parents against putting an overweight child on a diet aimed at weight loss. This “may deprive the child of essential nutrients” or put him at risk of developing an eating disorder. Instead, parents should get the child to eat healthily and be more physically active to “slow down the rate of weight gain”, rather than aim for “outright weight loss”, he adds.

Slowing or stopping weight gain will allow the child to “grow into his or her body weight gradually over time”, says Dr Veronica Tay, deputy director of the Health Promotion Board’s student health centre. In addition, she advises that the entire family have to change their diet and lifestyle, rather than singling out the child. Junk food should be avoided, says Dr Lieu Ping Phun, a paediatrician at an Upper Bukit Timah clinic. They include sweetened food and drinks such as cakes, candies and soft drinks, as well as fatty food such as fried chicken wings and french fries. Parents should encourage their children to eat more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereal or brown rice, says Ms Letty Shiu, a nutritionist at the board’s youth health division.

Complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains release sugars more gradually, help the child feel full longer and makes him less likely to snack between meals, says Dr Lee. But excessive intake of wholegrains can also lead to excessive weight gain, he cautions. Children should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activities such as cycling, swimming and brisk walking on five or more days a week, advises Ms Shiu.

Parents should encourage their children by doing these activities and playing outdoor games with them, she adds. They should also get their children to be more active in daily life by walking and taking the stairs, she says. An overweight child is at higher risk of developing chronic diseases in adulthood, such as diabetes and heart disease. The Yearbook of Statistics Singapore 2010 reported that 12.1 per cent of Primary 1 boys here were obese in 2009 – slightly down from 13.1 per cent in 2006. Similarly, fewer Primary 1 girls were obese in 2009 – 10.8 per cent in 2009, down from 12.3 per cent in 2006.

A seven-year-old boy here is considered severely overweight or obese when his body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight relative to height – exceeds 23kg/m2. A girl here of the same age is obese when her BMI exceeds 22kg/m2. This is based on body mass index for-age charts to compare a child’s weight relative to his height and also to other children of the same age and gender. The charts were introduced by the Health Promotion Board last July. Nurse Tracy Dong’s six-year-old son became severely overweight two years ago, after he initially lost his appetite and she gave him diet supplements. He also transferred to another childcare centre that organised fewer outdoor activities than his previous centre.

She now plans family outdoor activities such as basketball, cycling and swimming on Sundays, and stops him from eating his favourite chicken skin. But it has been an uphill task. Ms Dong, 35, says: “He eats more after the exercises. My family members are also not co-operative and give in to his huge appetite.”  

Help at your fingertips

children-bmiCalculate a child’s body mass index (BMI) by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in metres. Refer to the BMI-for-age charts to see if he is underweight, overweight or of normal weight. The information is available for those up to 18 years old.

The charts for children aged six to 18 are available on the Health Promotion Board website ( Those for children aged up to six years old are available in its section on educational materials for pregnancy and parenting (

Alternatively, you can log on to another of the board’s websites to work out the maths ( Although the formula for the BMI of an adult and that of a child is the same, the result for a child is interpreted differently. This is because the amount of body fat in children changes at different stages of their development and growth, says the board. For example, during puberty, a child may experience accelerated growth and increased muscle mass, which could affect the BMI, it says.

Tips on planning healthy meals for toddlers are also available under the educational materials for pregnancy and parenting section on the board’s website.

  Ask the Specialists - Free Doctor Q&A  
    Advanced Care Planning
Take this opportunity to ask our experts on what advance care planning is all about, as well as the other directives.
    Previous Q&As
Check out our archive for all our previous doctor's Q&As!
*Latest Update: Speech and Language Problems in Children, Gynaecological Cancers: Cervical and Ovarian Cancers, Colorectal Problems, Screening, Risks & Symptoms
e-Appointment Online
Health Buddy App