Weight loss summer camps aim to help children stay fit
The programmes focus on teaching the basics of healthy eating and exercise
Parents of overweight children are turning to summer camps in an effort to help youngsters stay healthy and fit.
Experts said the programmes aimed to set participants on “a long-term weight loss journey” while supporting their physical and emotional well-being.
The camps are designed to help children aged 7-17 and can cost up to Dh5,000 a week with a minimum fortnight stay.
Figures from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention estimate that as many as 40 per cent of children in the Emirates are either overweight or obese.
“The programme is all about setting children on a long-term weight loss journey,” said Basel Shouly, president of CPI Education, which organises one summer camp.
“We want to get children out of their existing environment and teach them how to live healthier.
“It is about promoting a long-term lifestyle adjustment so we can tackle this disastrous obesity epidemic, head on.”
CPI Education has been delivering a variety of teaching programmes to children during school holidays since 2001.
In 2010, it introduced the Fitness and Weight Loss camp after noticing an “alarming” trend of pupils becoming more overweight.
Next year's summer camp will operate from June 14 to August 29, with all children required to board at the Etisalat Academy in Dubai.
“So many of the kids who joined our education camps were obese and unfit,” Mr Shouly said.
“Because they were boarding with us, we were able to see their eating habits up close as well as how they struggled in sports.
“The most alarming thing was the junk food consumption.
“Some kids were eating in excess of 5,000 calories a day without even knowing … they were emptying out our vending machines.”
CPI Education's summer weight-loss camp has 120 places available, creating a ratio of one coach to every 10 pupils.
Children will also be given guidance from dieticians in an effort to improve their eating habits.
Mr Shouly said on average, children lost “between 5kg and 6kg in a four week period”.
"The camps are structured in such a way that classes are held in the morning, sporting activities in the afternoon, and cultural and recreational trips in the evening,” he said.
“A few years back we had a 17-year-old who stayed with us. He weighed over 150kg and lost a good amount of weight.
“Some lose more and some less, but what matters is they become more informed and aware of food and exercise.”
Organisers said the majority of children attending the camp are boys aged between 11-17 who are from Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
This year, the UAE government introduced a lunch box ban on junk foods and fizzy drinks in schools.
Parents were prohibited from packing unhealthy food items including processed meats, chocolate bars and spreads for pupils studying at government schools.
Mr Shouly agreed improvements were being made to address the obesity burden in the country and highlighted that education was key.
But added that camp leaders sometimes have to reject some registrations because of unrealistic expectations from parents.
“We turn away a lot of parents because they simply want a quick fix for their children," he said.
“Some say they want their child to lose as much as 15kg or 20kg in a few weeks, which is unhealthy.
“We have even had parents ask if there is a medical facility on site for weight loss surgeries.”
Updated: December 5, 2019 12:09 PM