Children are getting too little exercise

Children need to be encouraged to increase their activity levels, new research has suggested. Published in the journal PLoS ONE, the study found kids aged between eight and ten spend little time moving around, playing games, skipping and running.

Investigators from Newcastle University and the University of Strathclyde monitored the actions of youngsters using wearable activity devices and discovered little ones spent only four per cent of their time awake engaging in physical movements deemed to be of moderate to vigorous intensity.

This level equates to around 20 minutes every 24 hours - significantly lower than the recommended 60 minutes per day.

The study, which was funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative, found boys tend to be more active than girls, while those involved in sports clubs outside of schools have greater levels of movement.

Dr Mark Pearce of Newcastle University said girls in particular need to be encouraged to exercise by "providing a wider range of opportunities than are currently on offer and by ensuring they see positive female role models, particularly in the media".

Dr Ruth Lowry, a Chartered Psychologist from the University of Chichester, comments:

"The findings from the Gateshead Millennium Study provide us with a clearer picture of the state of childhood health. Previous research has noted the increasing gap between activity levels of boys and girls, but this trend of less activity for girls was thought to start in adolescence. The findings from this study would suggest that health promotion work needs to start addressing the perceived barriers to activity of a much younger age group.

"As a discipline we are beginning to recognise that we also need to be more precise in our measurement of activity; young children move and therefore accumulate their activity in a more sporadic fashion than adults. By using accelerometers which are small motion sensors, the researchers have been able to capture a accurate and holistic picture of a child’s day in terms of physical activity and times when they are sedentary.

"Previous work has heavily relied on self-report which is prone to over-reporting of activity.  What the report highlights is that children are still falling far short of the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity a day and that more work is needed to help enact changes in childhood health. Children require more planned activity breaks in their day (the 60 minutes can be broken down into 10 minute blocks) and their time spent sitting needs to be greatly reduced."