Japan has the ‘world’s healthiest children’ and here’s why

young Asian girl sitting at dinner table

Is our Aussie laid-back, shoes-optional, sun-kissed lifestyle actually harming our children? According to a recent study, Japan is paving the way in having the world’s healthiest children with the highest healthy life expectancy.

But where does Australia rank? And what can we learn about raising healthier children from the Japanese?

Australia’s children are less healthy than we think

Japanese males and females are expected to live to 73 without any major illness or disability, according to a study published in The Lancet. Their overall life expectancy is 84.

While some publications suggest that Australia isn’t too far behind with a suggested life expectancy around 83 years of age, in this particular study Australia doesn’t even make the top ten list. Singapore, Andorra, Iceland, Cyprus, Israel, France, Italy, South Korea and Canada all outrank Australia.

What makes the Japanese way of life so healthy?

Sure, we know that the constant sunshine, our reliance on vehicles and our love of tomato sauce could be to blame for our less-than-healthy lifestyle, but, really, what it comes down to is what the Japanese are eating.

According to authors Naomi Moriyama and William Doyle, “The way Japanese people eat and move gives them a major longevity and health advantage.”

“Compared with other developed nations, Japanese people on average eat fewer calories per day, and in a healthier pattern: more fish, more rice, more vegetable products, less meat and dairy, smaller desserts and more reasonable portion sizes.”

Apart from portion sizes, Naomi also notes that the Japanese have better restraint than most developed nations. The Japanese enjoy pizza, ice cream or chips from time to time, but the portions are smaller and less frequent inside the house.

Another reason why Japanese children top the list as the healthiest in the world? Exercise is simply a part of life. According to the World Health Organization, more than 98 per cent of Japanese students walk or bike to school.

While Australians may not be that far behind in terms of life expectancy, it is clear that we could all use a little more rice and a little less meat pie in our lives. Now, if only it was that simple to convince our kids of this…

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