Intervention aimed at increasing activity levels among primary school children is required as a matter of urgency, academics have warned, after a study revealed some as young as eight are active for only a third of their daily recommended dose.
Researchers at the Universities of Strathclyde and Newcastle discovered children between the ages of eight and ten spent as little as 20 minutes a day being active compared to the 60 minutes prescribed.
According to the findings, based on a study of more than 500 eight to 10-year-olds, a gap in exercise levels between girls and boy emerges as soon as primary school contrary to popular belief differences are resigned to teenage years.
Older fathers also tended to have less active children, while those who participated in sports clubs outside of school were significantly more active than those who did not
Professor John Reilly, of Strathclyde’s Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences said: “Physical activity is not only essential to wellbeing but also goes a long way to achieving a happy and fulfilling childhood. However, the children we studied had only a third of their recommended activity, far short of the level which is best for them.
“There is an urgent need for interventions, at home and at school, which will help primary school children become more physically active.”
Dr Mark Pearce of Newcastle University, who led the study, added: “Given the importance of physical activity in maintaining good health, we know we need to get our kids more active. What we hadn’t known until now is how young we need to be catching them, or the reasons that lay behind their lack of activity.
“Already at the age of eight, we are seeing girls being less active than boys. This is something which we know then gets worse as they approach their teenage years.
“One of the important things is that most girls don’t see sport as cool. We need to be tackling these issues earlier by encouraging girls 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.”
The study, published in the open access journal PLoS ONE, saw 508 children between the ages of eight and ten wear activity monitors for at least three days to allow their movement to be registered.