Are our children active enough?

We all know the importance of leading an active lifestyle, with both the media and our peers constantly discussing the benefits of keeping fit. Statistics show that UK gym memberships rose by 5.1% between March 2016 and March 2017. As a nation, we are clearly trying to become more active – but does the same apply to our children?

A report by The Guardian indicated that 75% of children are now spending less time outside than prison inmates. Guidelines published by the UN recommend a minimum of one hour per day of outdoor exercise, yet studies show that the majority of children in the UK get less than 60 minutes of outdoor play each day. Up to one fifth of children were shown to have no outdoor play time at all in a typical day. Conversely, children were found to be spending much longer playing on electronic devices and tablets than they were playing outdoors.

This can be difficult for parents to understand; our favourite childhood memories were often spent riding bikes with our friends, climbing trees and exploring. The main difference is that we didn’t have the lure of advanced technology to contend with.

In a survey conducted by the National Trust, again reported by The Guardian, it was found that children today are only spending half the time that their parents spent playing outdoors. Today, children spend around four hours a week outside, whereas their parents spent a total of 8.2 hours outside on an average week.

Tackling childhood health issues

The UK currently has a problem with childhood obesity. While the rise in popularity of unhealthy snacks and fast food contributes heavily to this problem, is it possible that childhood inactivity could also be playing a role?

Data shows that children now tend to develop weight problems later on, at the age when their interest in technology is highest. Figures from 2006 and 2007 indicate that 10% of children in reception year at school were obese; this figure had reduced slightly by 2014-2015, at 9%. In contrast however, 19% of Year Six children were obese in 2014-2015 compared to 18% in 2006-2007.

So, how do these figures line up with childhood outdoor activity? The most recent data shows that children are becoming less active.  In 2008, 28% of boys and 19% of girls were shown to spend 60 minutes or more per day on physical activity. By 2012, this number had dropped down to just 21% for boys and 16% for girls.

Boys ages 11-12 were shown to have the lowest activity levels out of all male age groups. Girls are shown to be the least active between the ages of 13 and 15 years. This trend shows that the older the children are, the less exercise they will do.

This outlines the importance of encouraging outdoor activity and regular physical exercise for children in order to promote a healthy mindset at a young age.

Encouraging children to play outside

Rising obesity rates and falling physical activity levels make it clear that children in the UK could benefit greatly from spending more time outside. Playing outside is an important part of growing up and offers many benefits for children’s development. It is something that adventure playground specialists Infinite Playgrounds are huge supporters of.

Playing outside creates room for creativity and imagination, as well as the many health benefits. Similarly, playing outside allows children to improve their social skills by making friends and interacting with others.  From swings to outdoor playgrounds and tall slides, outdoor playgrounds allow children to explore the world outside and have fun.

Increasing daily physical activity is highly beneficial for everyone and is certainly more engaging than spending too much time on a tablet or phone. It is important to encourage children to get outdoors more and get active to enjoy a healthy and happy childhood.


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