Keeping Kids Active - How Much Should They Be Doing?

With only a couple of weeks to go before schools break up for the six week long summer holidays, now is a good time to consider if your children are getting enough exercise, both at school and more generally. If not, might the holidays provide an opportunity to engage them in more active pursuits?

The UK Chief Medical Officer recommends that children should be “engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity for 60 minutes every day.” However, according to the recent Active Lives Survey by Sport England, less than 1 in 5 kids are reaching this goal even though 95% of children say that they enjoy being active.

Further, research carried out by YouGov for Youth Sport Trust, showed that 68% of adults admitted that they didn’t know how long children should be exercising every day or thought that the target is much less than 60 minutes.

The Department of Education states that: “Physical education (PE) is a compulsory part of the curriculum for all pupils at every Key Stage, from age four to 16.  It is up to schools to determine how much time is devoted to PE in the curriculum but departmental guidance recommends that they should provide pupils with a minimum of two hours curricular PE per week.

Assuming that individual schools actually provide the minimum of two hours PE per week, that still leaves an additional 5 hours of vigorous exercise for children to engage in every week (outside of school) to meet the UK Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines.

This fact that two-thirds of parents don’t know what the recommended level of exercise is for their children is worrying as they probably assume their children are receiving the recommended daily amount of physical activity in school (during the school term). The reality being they may only be achieving a total of 120 minutes exercise in a week and that in schools following the DoE guidelines.

So, why should you make sure children are reaching the recommended physical activity target every day while in school and during the holidays? The benefits of physical activity in both children and adults has long been documented and is an important factor in reducing the risk of major illness in later life such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease. Regular physical activity has a positive effect on mental health too, decreasing stress and depression while improving mood and concentration. Furthermore, a recent study found that “an acute burst of exercise is enough to prime the brain for learning”, probably something that all parents would like to encourage.

Another reason for encouraging children to become more physically active is research that shows an inactive child is more likely to become an inactive adult, increasing the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes in later life. Asking a child to refrain from staring at their smart phones, computer games and TV is easier said than done as increasing amounts of different types of technology encourage all of us to sit around for much longer and become more inactive.

However, a new incentive by the NHS called Change4Life may help as it taps into one of the key findings that came out of the Active Lives Survey mentioned above: children will do exercise if they enjoy it. Change4Life has teamed up with Disney to create ’10 Minute Shake Up games’ which have been inspired by popular Disney and Pixar movies to encourage children to do 10 minute bursts of exercise throughout the day which hopefully will add up to or help them reach the 60 minute recommended daily exercise amount and maybe “prime the brain for learning” too!

If parents can help their children have exercise become part of their daily lifestyle then they are more likely to grow up into physically active adults which will help stave off the risk of developing the life-threatening illnesses that have been found to come with being obese and unfit.

It may be that some children will rely on local parks and amenities for their exercise while others may be fortunate enough to engage in more organised sports and recreational activities such as those from these tahdah clients.

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Safeguarding the well-being of all participants in these types of fun, recreational activities is important and particularly so with children. All tahdah clients benefit from the safeguarding features built into our membership management platform.

To find out how tahdah can support your sport or recreational activity please contact us here.