The USA has long held the title as the nation with the most overweight and obese children in the world, but research conducted by scientists from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Wits University, as well as researchers from Denmark and England, has found that South African children are getting fatter at an alarming rate.

Between 2008-2015, researchers found that the obesity rate among local children doubled. In contrast, the obesity rate among American children doubled over 13 years – more than twice as slow as the SA rate.

Obesity is most prevalent in low-income households and attributed to unhealthy diets, fizzy drinks, hours spent in front of the TV and a lack of exercise.

READ MORE: How to get – and keep – your kids active

The research also revealed that the provinces which recorded the biggest jump in obesity rates were in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, North West and Limpopo.

If these statistics worry you, fear not, because here are a few fun ways parents can help get their children off the couch and lead a more healthy and active life.

  • Family sports: If you are a family of sport fanatics and support the various national teams, why not create a family league of the sport of your choice? If you like soccer, rugby or cricket, adapt the game to suit your family and play with your children at home or at the nearest park. To spice up the game, you could even role-play, using the names of your favourite players.

READ MORE: How to pack a nutritious school lunch

  • Bike riding: Children love bikes and will appreciate it even more when parents also get on their bikes and ride along as a family. Make time for biking on weekends and choose quiet routes within your neighbourhood, ensuring that everyone is safe.
  • Playing frisbee: This fun game is often overlooked, yet it has lots of physical benefits. Throwing the plastic disc around works the arms, while running or walking to fetch a frisbee is a good workout. You can play at home, in your local park or just about anywhere.

READ MORE: How to get your kids off the couch and into action

  • Rollerblading or ice skating: This throwback sport is back and can be a world of fun for the whole family. Book an outing to your local ice rink, hire the blades and have a great time indoors – the kids will love it.
  • Walking for a cause: Family fun walks are a great way of teaching your children to support different causes while having fun.