SPort changes a person. Kuno-Michael Konopka has been observing this for almost two decades. Then there’s the pain: sit-ups, leapfrogs, jumping rope. And then, with some distance, the effect of this torment follows: “After just a few weeks with me, the children go through life more upright,” says the 67-year-old. “They have more confidence and are more self-confident. And even school performance sometimes improves.”
Konopka is a movement trainer. Since 2001 he has been working for Moby Kids around Hamburg to ensure that overweight children and young people discover the joy of exercise and can thus take a step back into life. Extremely overweight children – because the Moby Kids long-term program, which is designed for a year, is aimed at them at around a dozen locations in Germany.
In addition to 90 minutes of sport per week, the children also cook together, receive nutrition tips and rules of conduct. Konopka alone is currently offering three courses, each with twelve places, in Norderstedt, Wedel and Harburg. “The demand is enormous,” he says: “We can take in a maximum of ten percent of the children for whom it would be important.”
An hour of exercise
Children in Germany do not exercise enough. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day for everyone aged five and over. But very few do that. The corona pandemic has further intensified this development. A survey by the health insurance company DAK among 18,000 schoolchildren in thirteen federal states recently came to the conclusion that only 32 percent of the girls and boys surveyed are still sufficiently active. Children from socially disadvantaged families (22 percent) were therefore even more affected.
Konopka meticulously keeps statistics: age, height, weight, current body mass index, normal body mass index. From these figures, too, he can see that his work is worthwhile. For example, there was a 14-year-old girl who came to his course with a height of 1.70 meters, a weight of 107 kilograms and a BMI of 37. About a year later, it had lost 17 kilograms. In his final report to the parents, the pediatrician and the health insurance company, Konopka noted: “The result can be rated as excellent.”
A course at Moby Kids costs 2375 euros, some health insurance companies cover the entire amount, others only sixty percent. “It remains a fight,” says Konopka. Not just against weight. But sometimes also against the parents, who often enough wanted to trust that things would grow together and that it was just a phase anyway. They are also trained by Moby Kids.
Even before the corona pandemic, fifteen percent of children and young people in Germany were overweight, and around a third of them were so overweight that experts spoke of obesity. That was the result of the KIGGS study by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) from 2017. The proportion of overweight children and adolescents has increased by fifty percent compared to the 1980s and 1990s. The pandemic with the two lockdowns has further aggravated the situation.