British children among the least active in the world, with exercise ‘stripped out’ of modern lives
20 NOVEMBER 2016
British children are among the least active in the world, and fitness levels are plummeting, a damning international study has found.
Experts said the results were alarming, showing that movement was being “stripped out” of modern lifestyles, with children weaned on screen-time and starved of outdoor activity.
On Sunday night Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, called for radical changes in family routines, describing exercise as a “magic pill” which would be a “pharmaceutical blockbuster” if only it could be bottled.
Research comparing 38 counties across the globe placed England, Scotland and Wales among the worst for physical activity.
Overall, England and Wales were both scored D minus, the third worst grade in the rankings, while Scotland was joint worst, with a grade of F.
The rankings, produced by a global alliance of health experts, show the UK lagging far behind a host of countries, including Poland, Slovenia, and Venezuela, when it comes to children’s fitness.
“’If you could pack exercise into a magic pill, it would be a pharmaceutical blockbuster’
”Simon Stevens, chief executive, NHS England
Government advice says children should do at least an hour of moderate intensity physical activity per day.
But just 15 per cent of girls aged 11 to 15 in England manage this, along with 22 per cent of boys, the report shows. And only one in three children of this age are taking part in any organised sport outside school, according to the figures, presented to the International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health.
The report shows that the fitness of children in England has deteriorated badly since the first such global research was published two years ago, despite repeated pledges by the Government to tackle childhood obesity and couch potato lifestyles.
In 2014, England was given an overall grade of C-D, in the first Global Matrix of Grades examining fitness. Since then, of nine different measures used to rank activity levels and government strategies, four have worsened while the rest are unchanged, bringing its overall grade down to D minus.
Latest figures show childhood obesity has reached record levels, with one in 10 children obese when they start primary school, and one in five reaching that level by the end of it.