Study Says Most Parents Are Unaware How Much Exercise Children Need

New research has revealed that more than two thirds of parents are unaware how much exercise children need to stay healthy.

According to the UK National Health Service, children aged five to 18 should exercise for one hour every day, but 68% of UK adults didn’t know this or thought the target was lower. The survey of 2,000 adults, from YouGov for the Youth Sport Trust (YST), found that only a quarter knew the recommended exercise time for young people, and on average people thought it was 46 minutes, The Observer reports.

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YST chief executive Ali Oliver said: “We’ve seen a worrying trend in recent years of a decline in young people’s physical activity, and a squeeze on time allocated to good quality physical education.”

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In the UK last year, there were reports that students were being taken out of gym classes to give them more time for exam preparation. Also, 38% of high school teachers said gym time for 14- to 16-year-olds had dropped in the past year.

Soccer Practice
Credit: Graham Oliver

An Active Lives Children and Young People Survey showed only 17.5% of children are hitting the 60-minute target daily. The numbers also indicate a disparity between children from different economic backgrounds, with 39% of those from the poorest families doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a day, compared with 26% from richer families.

This week thousands of schools will come together to celebrate YST National School Sport Week, with the aim of promoting the importance of exercise and the benefits it has on young people. Ben Smith, the runner who completed 401 marathons in 401 days in 2016, is backing the initiative.

“My experience of PE at school was scary,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough, like I would never fit in, that I wouldn’t enjoy it and I put so many barriers in place as an excuse not to exercise. Having found sport later in life, I can now see the power it has not only to build a person’s soul but also the benefits it has on confidence, self-esteem and our overall mental wellbeing. It’s vitally important that every young person has opportunity to enjoy what sport has to offer.”

According to the World Health Organization, children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers. Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits. Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.

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