Sedentary seven year olds need to get moving
Research published today from the Millenium Cohort Study has shown that only half of all UK seven year olds are clocking up the recommended minimum of one hour or more moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. It’s the first population based UK-wide study to directly measure children’s exercise levels, rather than rely on self-reporting, and the findings are quite stark.
Girls are substantially less active than boys, with just over a third reaching the daily minimum exercise recommendation compared with two thirds of boys. And there are regional differences too, with children living in the Midlands and Northern Ireland being the least active.
The findings are based on a representative population sample of almost 7000 UK primary school children. They measured their daily physical activity levels for a full week using a gadget called an accelerometer, worn on an elasticated belt that was only removed when bathing or sleeping.
The readings showed that half of the children were sedentary for six and a half hours or more each day. Although the average daily activity across the whole study was sixty minutes of exercise each day, in line with the recommended minimum, the results showed that only half of the children in the study actually achieved this target.
The study was conducted between May 2008 and August 2009 and things may have changed following the excitement of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. But it’s clear that we need to do more to encourage young people to be more active.
Here at Wellcome Trust HQ we’ve gathered together some science-packed resources that may help to achieve just that. After all, if kids understand why exercise is important and the impact it has on their bodies and future health, it may be easier to convince them to get on their bikes rather than take the bus.
First there’s the Big Picture issue focused on Exercise, Energy and Movement, featuring articles on various aspects of human physiology including bone biomechanics, how muscles work, and includes an interview with Paralympic swimmer and double gold medallist, Ellie Simmonds. There’s also a mythbusting video that blows apart common myths such as the value of sports drinks and how much exercise you need to do to see results. The magazine is aimed at 16-18 year olds but many of the resources will work for younger kids too, such as this bonus article on fitness fads.
For those North of the border, the Bodyworks exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre is now open with interactive zones to learn more about how your own body performs. There are also research capsules showcasing cutting edge research and opportunities to participate in live lab experiences and workshops.
Finally there’s the In the Zone initiative, which saw free experiment kits for all age groups being delivered to every UK school with resources to conduct scientific investigations exploring how the body works during exercise and at rest. This included an interactive family experience that toured the UK in the summer of 2012 and is currently on display at At-Bristol Science and Discovery Centre. And if that’s not enough, the In the Zone Lite pop-up sports science demonstration is touring festivals and events this summer.
With the world knocking on the door of a global obesity epidemic, it’s never too late to inspire our young people to keep themselves in good shape. Now who’s up for attempting to smash the 74-hour world record for hula-hooping?
‘How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study’ is published online today in BMJ Open. The fourth sweep of the Millennium Cohort Study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and a consortium of government funders. Collection of the accelerometer data was funded by the Wellcome Trust.