Bri­tish chil­dren among the least ac­tive in the world

Many have mod­ern life­styles with ex­er­cise ‘stripped out’ and re­placed with screen time

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE - By LAURA DON­NELLY

Bri­tish chil­dren are among the least ac­tive in the world, and fit­ness lev­els are plum­met­ing, a damn­ing in­ter­na­tional study has found.

Ex­perts said the re­sults were alarm­ing, show­ing that move­ment was be­ing “stripped out” of mod­ern life­styles, with chil­dren weaned on screen-time and starved of out­door ac­tiv­ity.

On Sun­day night Si­mon Stevens, head of the NHS, called for rad­i­cal changes in fam­ily rou­tines, de­scrib­ing ex­er­cise as a “magic pill” which would be a “phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal block­buster” if only it could be bot­tled.

Re­search com­par­ing 38 coun­ties across the globe placed Eng­land, Scot­land and Wales among the worst for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Over­all, Eng­land and Wales were both scored D mi­nus, the third worst grade in the rank­ings, while Scot­land was joint worst, with a grade of F.

The rank­ings, pro­duced by a global al­liance of health ex­perts, show the UK lag­ging far be­hind a host of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Poland, Slove­nia, and Venezuela, when it comes to chil­dren’s fit­ness.

Govern­ment ad­vice says chil­dren should do at least an hour of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity per day.

But just 15 per cent of girls aged 11 to 15 in Eng­land man­age this, along with 22 per cent of boys, the re­port shows. And only one in three chil- dren of this age are tak­ing part in any or­gan­ised sport out­side school, ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures, pre­sented to the In­ter­na­tional Congress on Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity and Pub­lic Health.

The re­port shows that the fit­ness of chil­dren in Eng­land has de­te­ri­o­rated badly since the first such global re­search was pub­lished two years ago, de­spite re­peated pledges by the Govern­ment to tackle child­hood obe­sity and couch potato life­styles.

In 2014, Eng­land was given an over­all grade of C-D, in the first Global Ma­trix of Grades ex­am­in­ing fit­ness. Since then, of nine dif­fer­ent mea­sures used to rank ac­tiv­ity lev­els and govern­ment strate­gies, four have wors­ened while the rest are un­changed, bring­ing its over­all grade down to D mi­nus.

Lat­est fig­ures show child­hood obe­sity has reached record lev­els, with one in 10 chil­dren obese when they start pri­mary school, and one in five reach­ing that level by the end of it.

Mr Stevens urged fam­i­lies to make changes to daily rou­tines, to pro­tect the long-term health of their chil­dren.

The head of the NHS said ex­er­cise has been shown to cut three per cent of strokes, pre­vent 30 per cent of cases of de­men­tia, 30 per cent of osteoporosis, rad­i­cally re­duce breast can­cers and bowel can­cers, pre­vent de­pres­sion, re­duce stress, and elim­i­nate type 2 di­a­betes.

“If you could pack ex­er­cise into a magic pill, it would be a phar­ma­ceu- per­cent tical block­buster,” he told The Daily Tele­graph.

“In­stead it re­quires ac­tion by schools, the NHS, par­ents and the food and drink in­dus­try. Get this right and we’ ll be spar­ing the next gen­er­a­tion hun­dreds of thou­sands of cases of can­cers, strokes and de­men­tia, as well as type 2 di­a­betes.”

Re­searchers said the typ­i­cal mod­ern life­style of spend­ing a day in front of a com­puter, fol­lowed by an evening slumped in front of the tele­vi­sion was prov­ing fa­tal.

They also called for rad­i­cal changes in govern­ment poli­cies, to en­cour­age health­ier habits.

Mr Stevens also urged par­ents to make rad­i­cal changes to their chil­dren’s di­ets.

“The av­er­age five-year-old is es­ti­mated to be con­sum­ing their own body­weight in sugar each year.

“So we are stor­ing up all kinds of trou­ble for our chil­dren and their gen­er­a­tion,” he said.

The study shows that while ac­tiv­ity lev­els among teenage girls have re­mained un­changed, the per­cent­age of boys do­ing an hour’s daily ex­er­cise has dropped from 28 per cent to 22 per cent in just two years.

Scot­land has re­tained its place at the bot­tom of the league ta­ble, with lack of ex­er­cise and the amount of time chil­dren spend in front of TV and com­puter screens high­lighted as a cause for con­cern.

Wales, which was not in­cluded in the first study, re­ceives equal rank­ing with Eng­land, with just 15 per cent of those aged be­tween 11 and 15 man­ag­ing an hour’s ex­er­cise daily.

Last week a study by broad­cast­ing watch­dog Of­com found pre-school chil­dren are now spend­ing an av­er­age of more than four hours a day look­ing at screens.

Among those aged five to 15 the fig­ure rose again, to an av­er­age of five-and-a-half hours.

Fit­ness ex­perts said seden­tary life­styles meant to­day’s chil­dren could see their lives cut short.

Dr Steven Mann, re­search direc­tor at not-for-profit health body, UK Ac­tive, said: “To­day’s chil­dren are the least ac­tive ever and face a tick­ing time-bomb of health is­sues that puts them at se­ri­ous risk of hav­ing shorter lives than their par­ents.

“Move­ment has been stripped out of mod­ern liv­ing, mean­ing Gen­er­a­tion In­ac­tive are driven to school and fed a sta­ple diet of sofa play and screen time, while be­ing starved of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is call­ing for Of­sted to rate schools for the fit­ness of chil­dren.

“Un­til we mea­sure phys­i­cal lit­er­acy in the same way as maths and English, we’ ll be pow­er­less to stop this alarm­ing rot,” Dr Mann said.

The best per­form­ing coun­tries were New Zealand, South Africa and Slove­nia.

In Slove­nia, around eight in 10 boys and seven in 10 girls aged be­tween six to 18 took at least an hour’s mod­er­ate to vig­or­ous ac­tiv­ity ev­ery day.

In New Zealand, two-thirds of chil­dren and young peo­ple man­aged this most days while in South Africa around half of chil­dren were es­ti­mated to be do­ing at least an hour’s such ex­er­cise daily.

The re­search by the Ac­tive Healthy Kids Global Al­liance, a net­work of re­searchers and health work­ers, was pre­sented in Bangkok and spans 38 coun­tries from six con­ti­nents, rep­re­sent­ing 60 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­tiv­ity lev­els in Bri­tain have dropped by more than a third in three decades, of­fi­cial data shows, with the av­er­age per­son now walk­ing for less than 10 min­utes a day. Mean­while, calo­rie con­sump­tion has risen, fu­elled by sales of sug­ary drinks.

The coun­try’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer re­cently said fam­i­lies need to do more to en­cour­age chil­dren into health­ier eat­ing, and a re­turn to three “proper” meals a day.

Dame Sally Davies urged par­ents to stop al­low­ing chil­dren to help them­selves to snacks from the fridge, say­ing tougher ac­tion was needed in a “call to arms” to ad­dress Bri­tain’s “gob­s­mack­ing” obe­sity cri­sis.

of girls aged 11 to 15 do at least an hour of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity per day in the United King­dom of boys aged 11 to 15 do at least an hour of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity per day in the United King­dom


Govern­ment ad­vice says chil­dren should do at least an hour of mod­er­ate in­ten­sity phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity per day.

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