Doctors sound alarm on child fitness and health

New report prompts fears over soaring obesity, showing half of seven-year-olds are not doing enough exercise – Published on The Guardian, by Denis Campbell, August 21, 2013.

They risk being the couch potatoes of the future – the children who prefer playing computer games, watching TV or just lounging around to visiting their nearest skatepark or taking inspiration from Andy Murray and picking up a tennis racket.

They are not the majority, but they may be – and soon.  

New research published on Thursday shows that almost half of all the country’s seven-year-olds lead such sedentary lives that they do not even take the one hour of exercise a day which the UK’s chief medical officers recommend as the bare minimum to boost their health and stop them becoming overweight or developing heart problems. While 50.8% of children of that age do have one hour of exercise, the other 49.2% do not meet the official recommendation.

The findings, published in the medical journal BMJ Open, have prompted renewed concerns about children’s lifestyles and soaring childhood obesity, and whether the key pledge of last year’s London Olympics – to “inspire a generation” to take part in sport – will ever be realised. It is already known from the government’s National Child Measurement Programme in England that by the final year of primary school 33.9% of pupils are either overweight (14.7%) or obese (19.2%).

The four home nations’ medical advisers believe all children and young people should do at least an hour’s moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. But results from using accelerometers to measure the activity levels of 6,497 seven-year-olds over the course of a week show that in 2008-09, when the research was undertaken, exactly half (50%) of the pupils were sedentary for at least 6.4 hours a day.

Girls were particularly inactive: just 38% did the recommended hour of exercise, compared with 63% of boys. Children of Indian origin were the least active of seven ethnic groups, while just 43% of seven-year-olds in Northern Ireland managed the hour, compared with 52.5% in Scotland, the most active home nation.

Interestingly, children whose mothers had never worked or who were long-term unemployed were the most likely to do at least an hour’s physical activity and were the least sedentary, while children from two-parent families were less active than those being brought up by just their mother.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which represents the UK’s 11,000 specialist children’s doctors, said it was worried about the trend towards so many children entertaining themselves indoors in front of devices rather than outdoors as previous generations did … //

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Links:

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