Children's activity and motor coordination

A child's motor coordination is negatively impacted if they are often lazy. This is the suggestion of new research published in the American Journal of Human Biology, which found physical activity alone cannot combat the negative effects sedentary behaviour has on everyday movements such as walking, throwing and catching.

Dr Luis Lopes of the University of Minho in Portugal explained a person's early years are vital for their development of these skills, which are important for health and wellbeing in later life.

He stated: "We know that sedentary lifestyles have a negative effect on these skills and are associated with decreased fitness, lower self-esteem, decreased academic achievement and increased obesity."

It was demonstrated that kids who spend too much time watching television or playing on computer games can not overcome the negative impact on their motor coordination by simply increasing physical activity levels - suggesting parents need to put a time limit on how often their little ones laze around.

Dr Helen Barrett, a member of the Society, comments:

"There must be a lot of individual difference in this area, and I wonder whether the sample size in this study was large enough. We need a far larger sample to confirm (or not) the findings of this study.

"Having said that, we know that children and adults who don't get opportunities to develop skills (in playing musical instruments, learning to run, jump, ski or whatever) don't develop them. We also know that children who are given lots of opportunities from a young age have a head start. What we don't yet know is how possible it is to make up for these missed opportunities in adulthood.

"The relevant experiments just haven't been done yet and the 'natural experimental situation'  - a sample of adults who are free to engage intensively in learning completely new skills - doesn't seem to have been studied either, perhaps because such people are rare."

Society Fellow Professor Emeritus Leslie Smith also sounds a sceptical note:

"Activity is only part of activity. Mental acts are norm-laden, value-laden and charged with meaning. How did these youngsters make sense of what they were doing, under whose standards, and to what ends? And too, each act has the capacity to change the meanings, norms and values in their agent's system."