Waistlines are reportedly getting bigger and more people are being admitted to hospital as a result of obesity in Essex.

And children are not exempt from this trend.

Figures have shown kids are more likely to be obese when they leave Essex's primary schools as they were a decade ago.

A new report from Public Health England looking back over the last 10 years has concluded there is a strong link between obesity and the poorest areas in the country.

NHS Digital data shows 20 per cent of Year 6 pupils in Essex were classed as obese in 2019-20, slightly up from 16 per cent in 2009-10.

But it was a different picture for children in reception with the proportion who were obese increasing slightly to 9 per cent in 2019-20.

Jon Bullock, the founder of Elite Outdoor Fitness Academy, wants to help parents teach their children to enjoy exercise.

He said: "Child obesity is unfortunately rife in Essex.

"Seemingly, lots of Essex locals are struggling with their weight and these difficulties are starting at a concerning young age.

"It is likely the Covid-19 pandemic will have only contributed to this ongoing issue.

"With gyms closed, many activities clubs on hold and children’s daily routines disrupted, exercise and access to a regular, nutritious and balanced diet may have fallen to the bottom of our priority lists."

A child enjoys a piece of watermelon

A child enjoys a piece of watermelon

But Jon said he was hopeful the trend in more people getting outdoors for exercise as a result of the pandemic will continue.

He added: "We need to oversee a two-way approach, with both schools and parents/care-givers addressing the issue.

"In schools, the promotion of sport and healthy eating needs to be a renewed top priority as lockdown has undoubtedly given rise to unhealthy habits.

"Parents must remember that what children experience at home will become their norm; if parents themselves have a healthy lifestyle and make healthier food choices, then their children will naturally emulate that.

A child gets ready to go for a swim

A child gets ready to go for a swim

"This starts from an early age, through seeing and learning behaviours, therefore, as parents and care-givers you can never start too soon."

Jon says it is vital parents don't treat takeaways or fast food as the norm.

He added: "Parents should not convey the message that takeaways are chosen because they’re in a rush or don’t have time.

"Healthy, quick meals are achievable and it’s important that we raise children who understand the realities of a healthy diet.

"Instead, it should be emphasised that these are a treat and everything in moderation is the key to health."

Jon, who runs classes at the Battlesbridge based academy, said it is important exercise is fun.

"It can’t seem like hard work or a chore," he said.

"It also helps to have some form of achievement or progression, for example winning a match or martial arts grade.

A child bounces on a trampoline

A child bounces on a trampoline

"Similarly, it helps if children exercise as part of a group or team, this builds a sense of community and friendship outside of the school gates.

"When a child doesn’t want to go to their chosen activity, parents should encourage them to make this a consistent habit.

"No one is perfect and we all know what’s right for our child, however, by changing these behaviours you can have a hugely positive impact on your child, instilling a sense of not only commitment but generally more of an informed understanding surrounding health and fitness."