Study shows that children ‘become less active during primary years’

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It might feel like your children are always rushing about at 100mph, but a recent study has suggested that children are less active once they reach primary school.

A study by Bristol University has found that between the ages of six and eleven, children are 17 minutes less active a week with every year that passes.

Researchers looked at the physical activity of over 2,000 children across 57 schools in the South West of England between 2012 and 2018.

The children involved in the study wore an accelerometer for five days to monitor and track their physical activity.

The accelerometer allowed researchers to see how many minutes a day the children participated in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

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In basic terms, this means enough to leave them slightly out of breath and sweaty.

Bristol University’s research was funded by the British Heart Foundation, and found out that 61 per cent of children in Year 1 did at least an hour of this physical activity every single day.

However, Year 6 pupils had a lower figure, and only 41 per cent achieved this.

For girls, there was a significant decrease in their physical activity, dropping from 54 per cent to just 28 per cent by the time they’d finished primary school at age 11.

Bristol University

Credit: Getty Images

Bristol University’s study says, “We saw marked differences in physical activity levels between boys and girls, with girls engaging in less MVPA and more sedentary time on both weekdays and weekends than boys at age six.’

It continued, “Girls’ MVPA also declined at a faster rate, so that the gap between boys and girls increases between ages 6 and 11.”

However, the study did acknowledge its limitations, as it only covered one area across the United Kingdom. They said, “Data is from the area around a single UK city which was predominantly white British, which limits the ability to generalise to other settings, contexts and ethnic groups.”

Professor Russell Jago, lead researcher at Bristol University, 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.

In addition to this, the British Heart Foundation’s associate medical director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said that “almost a third of children in the UK weigh more than they should”.

He added, “We know that children living with obesity are more likely to become obese adults – putting them at increased risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, later in life.”