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Three quarters of children aren’t doing enough physical activity

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Three quarters of school children are not doing enough physical activity, according to a new study. The new research into child activity rates in the UK has found that over 77 per cent of children are doing no more than four hours of out of school exercise each week. And the problem is far worse amongst poorer families, with around nine in 10 (88 per cent) children in low income households doing even less.The survey of over 2,000 parents, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Diabetes UK and Tesco, also revealed that very few parents know how much activity their children should be doing, with 85 per cent admitting they don’t know what the recommended guidelines are. Three quarters (75 per cent) of parents underestimate the amount of exercise their child needs, believing they only need around 30 minutes a day.

More shocking is that over a quarter (26 per cent) of parents believe their child is only doing a maximum of 50 minutes of activity a week in school, and a further 41 per cent think they get a maximum of 100 minutes per week,  meaning children are falling well below the recommended guidelines of physical activity.

According to Public Health England “all children and young people {aged 5 to 18} should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day”. Over a quarter (28 per cent) of parents say their child does no more than an hour a week, with almost one in six (14 per cent) saying they do none at all, putting them at increased risk of being overweight and developing serious long term health conditions in the future, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart  disease. 

Parents stated cost to be the biggest barrier to their children doing more exercise outside of school, with 85 per cent of parents who earn £15,000-£20,000 a year saying their child misses out on activity because it’s too expensive, and almost a third feeling it is because there is a lack of free or cheap facilities nearby. Parents also highlight that they would most like to take their children swimming (20 per cent), horse-riding (16 per cent) and to martial arts classes (15 per cent) if they could afford to.  

Over a third (37 per cent) of parents believe the responsibility to ensure children get enough exercise lies with their children’s school, although a fifth of parents earning less than £10,000 say their child does no exercise at school at all. 

Catherine Kelly, Director of Prevention, Survival & Support at the British Heart Foundation, explains; “Being inactive can lead to a multitude of health problems for children, including an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life. The benefits of physical activity outside of the classroom and within the community are vast, and as well as benefitting their heart health, it’s fun too!

“That’s why we are working with Diabetes UK and Tesco to deliver projects in areas most at need across the UK, helping communities to get active, lower their risk of developing these conditions and ultimately benefitting the health of children in the future.”

The first of these Partnership funded projects includes Beat the Street, launching in East London today (23 September). Over the next eight weeks, 30,000 families will take part in a real-life game where they will collectively walk, cycle or run the equivalent distance of going to outer space. By getting children inspired to take up the challenge of going on a race to space, the free Beat the Street game will increase their level of physical activity so it becomes an everyday pattern of behaviour to take into the future. 

Jenna Hall, Programme Director for the National Charity Partnership, explains: “East London is the first of 15 areas where the Partnership will be running mass participation community projects and will encourage at least 200,000 people to get active in its first year. These projects will be run in areas that have a high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, high mortality rates from cardiovascular, high levels of obesity and low levels of activity rates.” 

The National Charity Partnership between Diabetes UK, BHF and Tesco was announced earlier this year. Its aim is to help save lives, by helping millions of people to eat better and get active, reducing their risk of serious ill-health in the future. This will help reduce people’s risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, both of which are largely preventable through healthy lifestyle choices. Through the money raised by Tesco colleagues and customers, the partnership will deliver a variety of preventative and informative initiatives.

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