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Children Excercise

Primary schools

Survey Shows Four out of five primary school children do not get recommended amount of exercise

Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health, has just published a report stating that less than a fifth of children are getting the recommended about of exercise by the time they leave primary school.

Eustace de Sousa, Deputy Director in the team for Children, Young people and Families put the findings starkly:

`Children`s physical activity levels in England are alarmingly low, and the drop in activity from the ages of five to twelve is concerning.`

Being moderately active for at least 60 minutes a day is what the department recommend, but their findings suggests that most children are not achieving this. They have found that between the ages of five and seven, along with the eleven to twelve age group, there has been a 39% drop in children meeting this 60 minute unit. Only 28% of children aged between five and seven meet the target, but this drops to only 17% for the eleven to twelve age group.

Public Health England has published these figures to coincide with a new Change4Life campaign, undertaken with Disney and Sport England. This campaign, supported by the NHS, aims to ensure all children meet their their 60 minutes a day of moderate activity.

Ample research shows how important it is for children to have regular and sustained exercise. The NHS listen a number of reasons for children to exercise every day:

  • Attention levels and focus are improved, facilitating learning at school
  • Improves balance and hand eye coordination
  • Social skills and general behaviour are improved, along with self confidence
  • Develops the psyche, strengthening muscles and bones
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight
  • Improves health and fitness
  • Enhances the mood, making them feel happier

Children certainly seem to have boundless energy - my own experience has taught me that looking after a 6 year old child for only a few hours is more fatiguing than going to the gym! Only a few decades ago it was perfectly normal for parents to let their children run freely around the neighbourhood. I used to galavant around the local woods and parks with my friends for hours most evenings and weekends - when it was time for dinner my parents would ring a bell, summoning me back home. These days we are all too aware of the dangers that can befall our children, and as such we are more likely to curtail their excursions. Parents may restrict their children`s escapades to the home, or garden, if they are fortunate enough to own one.

The Public Health England survey provided some interesting results as to why the level of activity in children has dropped. 29% of 11 years olds expressed a worry that they are not good enough at sports. Physical activities and games are of course naturally competitive, but maybe some children are not being given the encouragement to believe they can improve.

According to the survey the primary motivation for children to be more active is having friends participating in the game - with 53% citing this as a reason for getting more exercise. 43% said having more activities to choose from would motivate them to have more daily exercise.

The advent of portable touchscreen devices - phones and tablets - modern gadgets that many adults have to become acclimatized to, but which children seem to use with a natural fluency, may also be culpable in the increasingly sedentary lives many children are leading. Why run around playing energetic games with your friends, if you can enjoy online activities through the glass touchscreen while slouching on the couch?

18 months ago
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