A BBC television programme which aired in late January highlighted some shocking statistics around the fitness levels of our children. It pointed to indoor or screen-based activities playing a huge part in today’s children being the first generation in 70 years to be less fit than their parents; with the least fit primary aged children from 20 years ago, being considered among the fittest pupils today. Shockingly the research shows that the least fit child in a class of 30 ten-year-olds in 1998 would be in the top 5 fittest in 2018.
On a positive note, childhood obesity rates have been falling for the last 10 years. However, the study found that fitness levels in children has continued the worrying downward trend. The move from playing outdoors and being active to indoor screen-based activities such as computer games and television has meant that today’s children are the first generation since the Second World War to be less fit than their own parents.
“If we could time travel to hold a one-mile race so today’s parents and their children were both 10 years old, mums and dads would win by about 90 seconds,” said Dr Gavin Sandercock, a Sports Scientist at the University of Essex.
“About a third of children have clinically low aerobic fitness,” said Dr Sandercock.
So how can we change this worrying trend and ensure this generation and the next are fitter and healthier?
Small, consistent changes make the biggest difference! Children don’t need to be active every hour of the day, it is recommended that young people aged 5-18 do at least one hour of physical activity per day. This cane be broken down in to moderate activities such as walking or cycling to school to more vigorous activities such as team sports or running.
Young people should be accessing high quality physical education at school, this can form a part of an active lifestyle. Whilst relying solely on the activity at school is not quite enough it is an important part of tackling the issue of childhood fitness. Ensuring children have an opportunity to be active in the evening, at weekends and in school holidays is equally as important.
The key to maintaining a change in activity levels is finding something that a young person enjoys. If they enjoy what they are doing, they are more likely to continue doing it over the longer term. Now more than ever, children have a wider range of opportunities in different types of sports and activities. Whilst there are still the options of the more traditional sports, there are also other non-traditional sports which young people can try.
Life Leisure offer a varied program for children aged 5-13 with weekly classes including dodgeball, soccer skills or kickboxing, and also offer holiday activities across Stockport run by our coaching team, with a variety of activities with the emphasis being on having fun and getting their fitness level up!