More than half of children do not get enough exercise – report

5 December 2019, 14:14

A girl on a swing
Playground stock. Picture: PA

Sport England found that 3.3 million children get 60 minutes a day, while 1.7 million are fairly active and 2.1 million get less than 30 minutes.

Fewer than half of children in England get enough exercise, although figures are improving, data suggests.

A new report from Sport England found 46.8% of children now get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day on average, up 3.6% on the figure for last year.

But the data shows the rise is being driven by children being active out of school, with many still not getting enough exercise during school hours.

Government guidelines say children and young people should get 30 minutes of their daily physical activity throughout the school day and 30 minutes outside of school.

HEALTH Active
(PA Graphics)

The new report found that 40% of children and young people do an average of 30 minutes or more a day at school, while 57% do so outside of school.

Activity levels outside of school have increased across all year groups compared with 12 months ago, while those in school have remained static, the study said.

Overall, the new data shows that 46.8% (3.3 million) of children are meeting the target of being active for 60 minutes per day on average, while 24.2% (1.7 million) are fairly active but do not reach 60 minutes per day.

A further 29% of children and young people (2.1 million) are being physically active for less than 30 minutes a day on average.

The data also showed that boys (51% or 1.8 million) are more likely to be active than girls (43% or 1.5 million), while children from less affluent families are the least likely to be active.

Children and young people in Years 1 and 2 (ages five to seven), 5 and 6 (ages nine to 11) and 7 and 8 (ages 11 to 13) are more likely to be active than those in Years 3 and 4 (ages seven to nine) and 9 and 11 (ages 13 to 16).

NHS data published in September showed that severe obesity among children leaving primary school is at a record high, while more four and five-year-olds are also obese.

Overall in Year 6, 34.3% of pupils are overweight or obese (205,923 children), with 4.4% severely obese (26,158) and 20.2% obese (121,409).

In reception class (four and five-year-olds), 22.6% of children are overweight or obese (135,020 children), up on the 22.4% the year before.

HEALTH Active
(PA Graphics)

The new Sport England report is based on responses from more than 130,000 children aged five to 16 in England during the academic year 2018/2019, making it the largest study of its kind.

Sport England’s remit is to help drive sport and physical activity outside of school from the age of five.

The report found that team sports, walking and active play are among the out-of-school activities that are on the rise.

Youth Sport Trust chief executive Ali Oliver said the figures were encouraging, but added: “We know levels of physical activity are still far too low and there is much more for us to do if we are to tackle the problems this poses for children’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing: too many are growing up overweight or obese, unhappy, lost and lonely.”

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