Do our children lead active lifestyles?

We all understand the importance of keeping fit — the media constantly remind us, as do our friends and family. In the UK, the number of gym memberships grew by 5.1% between March 2016 and March 2017. Clearly, as a nation, we’re trying to lead a healthier lifestyle — but is it the same story for our children? In one shocking statistic by The Guardian, 75% of children spend a lower amount of time outdoors than prison inmates do. UN guidelines state that prisoners should receive a minimum of one hour of outdoor exercise per day, yet most of our children play outdoors for less than 60 minutes a day. In addition to this, it was reported that one fifth of children did not spend any time outdoors on an average day. In contrast, children were found to spend twice as long playing on tablets and other devices as they were playing outside. This concept is difficult for the nation to comprehend, as older generations were brought up playing outdoors and spending time with friends. Admittedly, we didn’t have the lure of advancing technology to deal with. The contrast is so large between children and their parents though that one report that was reported by The Guardian showed that children spend half the time playing out than their parents did. Children today play outdoors for approximately four hours a week, while their parents were outdoors for a total of 8.2 hours per week on average.

Low activity levels and childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is becoming a greater problem for families in the UK. While the popularity of fast food and unhealthy snacks undoubtedly plays a part in this problem, could childhood inactivity be playing a part in the UK’s problem with obesity in children? Children appear to be developing obesity as they enter the latter part of their school years. Data from 2006/07 shows that 10% of children at reception year were obese; in 2014/15, this figure had marginally reduced to 9%. However, in contrast, 19% of children in Year Six of school were obese in 2014/15, up from 18% in 2006/07. Do these figures correlate with lower activity levels? Looking at the most recent data available from 2008 and 2012, it seems that children are becoming less active. When it comes to the amount of physical activity completed – in 2008, 28% of boys did 60 minutes or more each day. By 2012, this figure had dropped to 21%. It was a similar story for girls: 19% met the 60 minutes per day recommendation in 2008. In 2012, this fell to 16%. When it comes to the age group of children that are exercising the least, it is boys aged 11-12. Girls are least active between 13 and 15 years old. Generally, the trend shows that the older children are, the less physical activity they will undertake. For parents, this underlines the importance of encouraging outdoor play and regular physical activity through sports clubs in the early years of a child’s life, instilling a healthy lifestyle mentality when they’re young.

How important is activity in a child’s lifestyle?

A clear correlation is appearing between lower activity levels and obesity levels. Outdoor play is a fundamental part of growing up, offering numerous benefits for your child’s development. It’s something that outdoor classrooms specialist Infinite Playgrounds are huge advocates of. Not only does playing outdoors enhance children’s health levels, it also allows them to use their minds in new, imaginative ways. Getting out of the house also allows children to socialise and interact with others. Unlike playing with indoor toys, there is a level of risk associated with outdoor play. From tall slides to swings, outdoor playgrounds give children a chance to confront risk, pushing their own boundaries and explore.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/three-quarters-of-uk-children-spend-less-time-outdoors-than-prison-inmates-survey https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/27/children-spend-only-half-the-time-playing-outside-as-their-parents-did http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB20562/obes-phys-acti-diet-eng-2016-rep.pdf

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