Supersizing Primary Schools

What’s the physical state of our primary children these days?

Almost a third of children in the UK weigh more than they should.

The 2018/19 National Child Measurement Programme shows “Obesity prevalence (including severe obesity) was more than twice as high in year 6 (20.2% which equates to 121,409 children) compared to reception (9.7%, 57,869 children).”

That’s not great.

Obese children very often become obese adults which puts them at increased risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases,  type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

What’s the latest?

With research popping up here, there and everywhere then it’s difficult to keep up.

A new study funded by the British Heart Foundation that may have gone under your radar comes from from the University of Bristol on the topic of activity levels in primary school and obesity.

This isn’t good news either because it has found the higher up the primary ladder children climb, the less active they are. The drop in activity was particularly steep for girls too.

Jago et al (2019) found that between 6-11 years children lost on average more than 60 minutes of exercise in the week, with an even greater fall on weekends.

They monitored the behaviour of more than 2,000 children from 57 primary schools across South West England and discovered children became 17 minutes less active per week every year.

How did they know?

Children wore an accelerometer for five days, including two weekend days, which provided an accurate assessment of how many minutes per day the children participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) – enough to get them slightly out of breath and sweaty. What did they find?

  • In Year 1, 61% of children in Year 1 did at least an hour of MVPA per day
  • By Year 6, only 41% per cent achieved the target.

Led by Russ Jago, Professor of Paediatric Physical Activity & Public Health at the University of Bristol, said,

“These numbers prove that more needs be done to ensure children keep active as they approach adolescence. This isn’t about getting children to exercise more, but rather maintaining their activity levels.

“Developing early intervention strategies that help children retain activity levels could include after school physical activity programs, focusing on participation and enjoyment in addition to popular sports – and a greater emphasis on promoting weekend activities.”

When children and adolescents are more active then they are psychologically better and healthier. Schools and parents need to work together and that means ensuring the same consistent message gets said in relation to making healthy and informed choices and staying active.

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