Are Today’s Children Active Enough?
We all know that an active lifestyle is good for us and the constant reminders from the media seems to be doing the trick and inspiring us to be more active in our everyday lives. Here in the UK, by our peers — and it seems to be working. In the UK, the number of gym memberships grew by 5.1% between March 2016 and March 2017. It’s clear that, as a nation, we’re trying to be healthier by being more active but are our children included in this?
According to a report by The Guardian, 75% of children spend less time outside than prison inmates which is quite a shocking statistic. UN guidelines state that prisoners should receive a minimum of one hour outdoor exercise per day, yet the majority of our children play outdoors for less than 60 minutes a day.
A fifth of children do not play outside at all on a typical day and instead children were found to spend twice as long playing on tablets and other devices.
For parents, this can be difficult to understand as, for many of us, some of our most treasured childhood memories were spent outside being active, climbing trees, riding bikes and playing with friends. We didn’t have the same technology back then, of course!
A National Trust survey, again reported by The Guardian, shows that children today now spend just half the time their parents did playing outside They only play outdoors for approximately four hours a week, while their parents were outdoors for a total of 8.2 hours per week on average.
- Childhood Obesity & Activity Levels
That the UK is battling a problem with childhood obesity is not news at all but the problem doesn’t seem to get better. The popularity of fast food and unhealthy snacks definitely plays a part in this problem but could childhood inactivity be playing a bigger part than we think?
Overall, children are developing weight problems at approximately the age when their interest in technology will pique. Data from 2006/07 shows that 10% of children at reception year were obese; in 2014/15, this figure had marginally reduced to 9%. However, in contrast, 19% of children in Year Six of school were obese in 2014/15, up from 18% in 2006/07.
When looking at the most recent data available from 2008 and 2012, it seems that children are becoming less active. In 2008, 28% of boys did 60 minutes or more physical activity per day. By 2012, this figure had dropped to just 21%. 19% of girls met the 60 minutes per day recommendation in 2008. In 2012, this fell to 16%.
Boys aged 11-12 have the largest proportion of low activity of all male age groups. Girls are least active between 13 and 15 years old. The trend shows that the older children are, the less physical activity they will undertake.
Us parents need to understand the importance of encouraging outdoor play and regular physical activity in the early years of a child’s life, instilling a healthy lifestyle mentality when they’re young. Hopefully, the good habits and healthy lifestyle with stay with them for the rest of their lives.
- Why Outdoor Play is So Important
It’s clear that UK children can benefit from spending more time playing outside on a daily basis. Outdoor play is a fundamental part of growing up and offers numerous benefits for your child’s development. It’s something that adventure playground specialist Infinite Playgrounds are huge advocates of.
As well as the associated health benefits of physical activity, playing outside creates a space for imaginative play, tapping into their creativity. My girls love playing outdoors and always have lots of fun whether they’re just running around, riding bikes or exploring their surroundings.
Playing outdoors also gives children a chance to improve their social skills, interacting with others and making new friends at the park and when visiting a playground. Unlike playing with indoor toys, there is a level of risk associated with outdoor play which is important too. From tall slides to swings, outdoor playgrounds give children a chance to confront risk, pushing their own boundaries and explore, gaining confidence in the process.
Not only will playing outside give your children a chance to increase their daily physical activity which will help their physical health, it will also support their development across other areas too. Encouraging your child to get out there and get active is essential if your child is to enjoy a happy and healthy childhood, so please encourage your little (and big) kids to head outdoors!