Whilst I was never sporty as I kid I was always pretty active. Back when I was a kid the school holidays would often involve us kids jumping on our bikes and disappearing for day, or going up and down the street on our skateboards. I also remember I would often take our dogs for a walk, either on my own or with my dad or brother. It is easy to reminisce on a childhood with the freedom to explore the great outdoors, but for some reason the world has changed. I am not sure the world really is that much more dangerous for kids than it was 30 years ago, but for whatever reason much of the freedom I enjoyed as a kid seems to be gone for today’s children. Now a new study suggests that half of all UK seven-year-olds do not do enough exercise (we didn’t call it exercise when I was a kid), with girls far less active than boys.
University College London researchers found just 51% of the 6,500 children they monitored achieved the recommended hour of physical activity each day.
For girls, the figure was just 38%, compared with 63% for boys.
Half of the group also spent more than six hours being sedentary each day, although some of this would be spent in class, the researchers acknowledged.
The study, published in the online journal BMJ Open, found levels of activity varied among groups.
For example, children of Indian origin and those living in Northern Ireland were among the least physically active with 43% achieving the recommended levels, compared to 53% in Scotland.
But the most marked difference was between girls and boys.
Researchers said this suggested there needed to be a focus on making sport and other activities more attractive to girls.
Prof Carol Dezateux, one of the lead authors, said: “There is a big yawning gap between girls and boys. We need to really think about how we are reaching out to girls.
“The school playground is an important starting point. Often you will find it dominated by boys playing football.”
But she said there should still be concern about the activity levels across the board.
“The findings are particularly worrying because seven-year-olds are likely to become less active as they get older, not more.”
To achieve the one hour recommendation children have to take part in moderate or vigorous activity, which includes everything from brisk walking and cycling to playing football and running.
The UCL research is not the first to suggest children are not active enough, but most previous studies have relied on self-reporting by children or parents estimating levels of exercise, whereas the latest one involved real-time monitoring.
During the study, which took place during 2008 and 2009, youngsters wore an accelerometer to measure exercise levels which was attached to an elastic belt around their waist. It was removed only when bathing or when the children went to bed.
In total, the experts were able to record more than 36,000 days of data based on the children wearing the accelerometer for at least 10 hours a day over the course of a week.
Dr John Middleton, of the Faculty of Public Health, said more research was needed into why certain groups were less active.
“We need our children to grow up to be fit and healthy adults, not just because it’s what any civilised society would want for its children, but it’s also best for our economy too,” he added.
Dr Ann Hoskins, of Public Health England, agreed.
She said: “This study highlights that there is still much to do to keep children and young people active as they grow older, especially girls.
“The new school year is the perfect time to make healthy changes, swapping short car or bus journeys with walking or scooting to school.”
2013 Miles in 2013
This year I am trying to complete 2013 miles self-powered miles. It is has been 10 years since my cousin’s son Adam lost his fight with Cystic Fibrosis. Adam was just 18 years old when when he lost his lifelong battle with CF, the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited disease. Despite spending large parts of his short life in hospital Adam never once complained, not even of a headache and was determined to make the most of everyday.
My 2013 miles in 2013 challenge is in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.
The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, in February I completed a further 200.9 miles, in March I completed 185.7 miles, in April I completed 192.1 miles, in May I completed 168 miles, in June I completed 145 miles and in June I completed 210.1 miles. If you can please spare £13.07 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.
The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/2012-AYearWithoutBeer-CF.
2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules
The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:
- All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
- I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment
To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.