It was a long held belief that most children stop exercise during the teenage years when they are bombarded with hormones and other distractions. But research recently published suggests it happens earlier, as young as 7.
The research was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. 400 children were studied over 8 years to see just how much exercise they did on a daily basis and to see how the hours of exercise compared at age 9, 12 and finally at 15. The children in the study lived in Gateshead in north east England and were tracked between 2006-2015. On average boys did 75 minutes exercise a day at age 7 but only 51 minutes a day at age 15. Girls spent 63 minutes a day at age 7, falling to 41 minutes at age 15.
The study didn’t prove why children are doing this but a number of suggestions can be made. Some of this is based on the fact that alongside this drop in exercise are rising obesity rates. So at age 7 when children stop exercising their obesity rises. This would suggest that they are replacing exercise with sitting activities instead.
Children at the age of 7 spend half their day sitting and more worryingly by age 15 they spend three quarters of their day sitting.
Public Health England have expressed concern at the findings. One in five children leave primary school obese. They stress that children should do at least one hour of physical activity each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
NHS Choices have also stressed the need for exercise and should limit the amount of time they spend watching TV or playing computer games. They stress that children should be doing 60 minutes of physical activity each day. They also advise that three days a week they should work on building strong muscles like running or jumping.
So what can you do as a parent to help your child be more active? First of all you can where possible walk to school. Look at your weekends, can you get your child to take part in a sport at weekends or even go for a long walk as a family? Look at sports clubs your child could join after school and weekends. Also, check your child’s diet, are they getting the right balance of fruit and vegetables and is the portion correct for them?