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Childhood obesity and inactivity


Oct 26, 2017 #fitness, #health

We’re well aware of the importance of leading an active lifestyle and it seems an increasing number of us are choosing to do so. 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?

A recent report in The Guardian suggests that prisoners spend more time outdoors than 75% of children. UN guidelines state that prisoners should receive a minimum of one hour outdoor exercise per day, yet the majority of our children play outdoors for less than 60 minutes a day.

On a typical day, some children were found to not play outside at all. In contrast, children spend twice as long playing on tablets and other devices as they do playing outside.

This is a far-cry from the upbringing many parents had, with treasured memories made playing and exploring the great outdoors. Admittedly, they didn’t have the lure of advancing technology to deal with.

Compared to their parents, children today spend half as much time playing outside as they did, a National Trust survey found. 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.

The link between childhood obesity and inactivity

Childhood obesity is currently problematic 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?

According to research, the age children tend to develop weight problems is approximately when their interest in technology begins. 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.

How does physical activity compare? Looking at the most recent data available from 2008 and 2012, it seems that children are becoming less active.

Less than a third (28%) of boys did 60 minutes or more physical activity a day in 2008. By 2012, this figure had dropped to 21%. It was a similar story for girls: 19% met the 60 minute per day recommendation in 2008. In 2012, this fell to 16%.

11-12 year old boys were the least active out of all male age groups. 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.

Why outdoor play is important

As obesity rates rise and physical activity drops, outdoor play on a daily basis is incredibly important. This type of play is a fundamental part of growing up, offering numerous benefits for your child’s development.

Not only does outdoor play help children enjoy more physical activity, it also helps to stimulate their imaginations — something that adventure playground specialist Infinite Playgrounds are huge advocates of.

Outdoor play is also incredibly social for children, helping them to make new friends. 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.

There are numerous benefits of outdoor play, from health to development. Encouraging your child to get out there and get active is essential if your child is to enjoy a happy and healthy childhood.

By Emily