'Global epidemic' of childhood inactivity

Report shows 81% don't exercise enough with effects on health, brain development and social skills.

'Global epidemic' of childhood inactivity

Four in five 11- to 17-year-olds around the world are not taking enough physical exercise, according to the first such analysis.

The World Health Organization says children's health is being damaged as well as their brain development and social skills.

It says failing to take the recommended hour a day of exercise is a universal problem in rich and poor countries.

Boys were more active than girls in all but four of the 146 countries studied.

What exercise counts?

Pretty much anything that makes the heart beat more quickly and the lungs breathe harder. 

It could include:

  • running
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • football
  • hopping
  • skipping
  • gymnastics

The target is 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day.

"I don't regard it as a ridiculous target," the WHO's Dr Fiona Bull says.

"It is evidence-based to establish good health and development."

The difference between moderate and vigorous is you can still have a natter while doing moderate exercise but vigorous exercise would leave you too breathless to chat.

Why care?

The main reason is health, both now and in the future.

In the short term, being active means:

  • fitter heart and lungs
  • stronger bones and muscles
  • better mental health and wellbeing
  • lower weight

"Active adolescents are likely to be active adults," the WHO's Dr Regina Guthold says.

And over a lifetime being active can decrease the risk of many diseases, from heart attacks and stroke to type-2 diabetes.

But the researchers say there is also growing evidence being active is good for the developing brain.

"They have better cognitive function, easier learning, they have better pro-social behaviour," Dr Guthold says.

Are children just lazy?

Do these findings just tell us something fundamental about children, and indeed all of us, that we'll just crash on the sofa given half a chance?

"Children are not lazy," Dr Bull says.

"This tells us something universal but it's not about children. It's the neglect and failure of us to prioritise physical activity - and that seems to be worldwide."

So what is going on then?

There is no single answer that explains why activity levels are so low but there are some common themes.

One is the focus on academic performance over physical fitness.

"Young people in this age group are very encouraged to work hard, to study for exams," says Leanne Riley, one of the report's authors.

"Often for very long periods of the day, they're sitting in school doing homework and then they're not getting these opportunities to be more active."

The researchers also say there are issues around ensuring sport and leisure facilities are safe, accessible and affordable.

Unsafe roads mean cycling or walking to school or a friend's house is not an option.

 

"Those safety concerns are a big issue," Ms Riley says.

The rise of "digital play" - a world of entertainment available on a phone, tablet or computer - competing with time spend outside is also a factor.

Dr Bull says "access to entertainment is unprecedented" and on a completely different scale to previous generations.

Are any countries doing better than others?

The World Health Organization report found inactivity was a universal problem, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Bangladesh had the lowest levels of inactivity but it still had 66% of children (two in three) not taking an hour a day of exercise, according to the study.

Boys in the Philippines (93%) and girls in South Korea (97%) were the most inactive in the study.

In the UK, 75% of boys and 85% of girls were inactive.

How far behind are girls?

There are only four countries - Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia - where girls are more active than boys, according to the study.

Globally, 85% of girls are taking too little physical exercise, while the figure for boys is 78%, it suggests.

Countries such as the United States and Ireland have stark differences between the genders, according to the study.

Both have 64% of boys and a relatively whopping 81% of girls being inactive, it suggests.

Why the difference in girls?

Again, there is not one single reason and they vary from country to country.

"There are also some cultural issues at play here. In some cultures, adolescent girls are not meant to be as active or not encouraged to be as active as the boys," Ms Riley says.

Image copyrightGetty Images

The researchers also say the way participating in sport is promoted often means it appeals more to boys than to girls.

And more effort is needed to push the activities girls find more appealing.

Mrs Riley also says there are simply not the facilities.

"Very often, there aren't that separated changing rooms, so that girls can can feel comfortable participating in in sports," she says.

Are things getting better or worse?

Slightly better.

The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, looked at activity levels recorded between 2001 and 2016.

In that time, inactivity in boys fell from 80% to 78%, while in girls it stayed at 85%, according to the study.

What do experts think?

Dr Mark Tremblay, from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, in Canada, says: "The electronic revolution has fundamentally transformed people's movement patterns by changing where and how they live, learn, work, play, and travel, progressively isolating them indoors, most often in chairs.

"People sleep less, sit more, walk less frequently, drive more regularly, and do less physical activity than they used to."

Prof Russell Viner, the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says the findings are "concerning".

"Children who are more active have better health and wellbeing and generally do better in school," he says.

"We should be making it easier for children and young people to have active and healthy lives - this is easier said than done."

Follow James on Twitter. BBC

 
 

Other News

.
VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES JUNE 12
VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES JUNE 12
SOCIETYicon  12/06/2021 

UNICEF welcomes Vietnam's approval of programme on child protection online

Methamphetamine use on the rise in Vietnam: UNODC
Methamphetamine use on the rise in Vietnam: UNODC
SOCIETYicon  12/06/2021 

The number of methamphetamine users in Vietnam increased by nine times from 2016 to 2020, a new report has found.

Ministry affirms Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line certified as safe by French consultant
Ministry affirms Cat Linh-Ha Dong metro line certified as safe by French consultant
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

Responding to news about the recommendations from Apave-Certifier-Tricc (ACT), a French consulting firm, over the safety of the Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway project,

Bac Giang migrant workers to be relocated as part of Covid-19 fight
Bac Giang migrant workers to be relocated as part of Covid-19 fight
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

The northern province of Bac Giang, Vietnam’s ongoing Covid-19 epicentre, plans for workers from other localities to return to their hometowns to help mitigate Covid-19 infections.

HCM City has several chains of Covid infections with unknown sources
HCM City has several chains of Covid infections with unknown sources
SOCIETYicon  12/06/2021 

In addition to the outbreak related to the Revival Ekklesia Mission, Ho Chi Minh City has recorded new infection chains at apartments, a mechanical workshop and a hotel, with unknown sources of infection.

HCM City seeks ways to help laid-off workers, poor people survive pandemic
HCM City seeks ways to help laid-off workers, poor people survive pandemic
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

Financial relief packages and free supply of rice and other essential goods are among the many initiatives being taken by the Government and charity organisations to help workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students pray at Temple of Literature gate before high-school entrance exams
Students pray at Temple of Literature gate before high-school entrance exams
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

Hanoi’s high-school entrance exam will take place on June 12-13. Before the exams, many parents and students prayed at the gate of Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature) for good luck.

Vietnam sets up more maritime militias
Vietnam sets up more maritime militias
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  11/06/2021 

The militia squadrons are tasked with reconnaissance and maritime exploitation

The diary of a student who joins the fight against pandemic in Thu Duc
The diary of a student who joins the fight against pandemic in Thu Duc
FEATUREicon  12/06/2021 

“I usually have to stay up late at night to take samples for testing, often with an empty stomach,” the medical school student said.

War invalid donates VND4.5 billion to Covid-19 vaccine fund
War invalid donates VND4.5 billion to Covid-19 vaccine fund
SOCIETYicon  12/06/2021 

“I am a soldier. If I don’t die on the battlefield, I need to lead a meaningful life in peacetime,” said Le Van De, a war invalid in Hai Duong, explaining why he donated VND4.5 billion to the vaccine fund.

12 direct flights to the US will repatriate Vietnamese
12 direct flights to the US will repatriate Vietnamese
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

Vietnam Airlines has been officially licensed by US authorities to offer 12 flights from the US to Vietnam for Vietnamese citizens in 2021.

40 Covid-19 patients are in critical condition
40 Covid-19 patients are in critical condition
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

Vietnam has 176 Covid-19 patients in serious condition and 40 in critical condition, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

Poor workers during Covid-19: charity rice for lunch, rice gruel for dinner
Poor workers during Covid-19: charity rice for lunch, rice gruel for dinner
FEATUREicon  11/06/2021 

Poor workers are now facing even more difficulties as HCM City is in social distancing period because of the latest Covid outbreak. Many are living on charity meals or having instant noodles.

Startup upcycles tarps to make backpacks
Startup upcycles tarps to make backpacks
SOCIETYicon  11/06/2021 

A durable recycled backpack made of used tarp and selling for VND890,000 (US$38.6) is the signature product of Dòng Dòng, a new brand name in sustainable fashion in HCM City.

The responsibility of F1s in preventing the spread of Covid-19
The responsibility of F1s in preventing the spread of Covid-19
FEATUREicon  12/06/2021 

I received a call some days ago from a friend. She said she had become an F1 when taking a flight on which there was a person with Covid-19.

VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES JUNE 13
VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES JUNE 13
SOCIETYicon  13/06/2021 

Ministry grants conditional approval of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Special posters raise awareness of Covid-19 prevention
Special posters raise awareness of Covid-19 prevention
SOCIETYicon  12/06/2021 

A poster project, jointly carried out by the Veterans Association of Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District and the Youth Union of the district’s Bach Khoa Ward, has helped raise public awareness of the Covid-19 prevention and control.

Fighting pandemic: Vietnam chooses ‘slow but sure’ way
Fighting pandemic: Vietnam chooses ‘slow but sure’ way
FEATUREicon  10/06/2021 

Vietnam might reach the ‘finish line’ – vaccination and herd immunity – later than Europe and the US by five to six months, but it would prefer to go slowly and carefully.

Vietnam has access to many sources of Covid-19 vaccines
Vietnam has access to many sources of Covid-19 vaccines
SOCIETYicon  10/06/2021 

Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long met recently with the ambassadors of Australia, Switzerland and France in Vietnam regarding cooperation in epidemic prevention, especially the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to Vietnam.

Request for urgent approval of Pfizer vaccine in Vietnam
Request for urgent approval of Pfizer vaccine in Vietnam
SOCIETYicon  10/06/2021 

Vietnam has granted emergency licenses for three vaccines against Covid-19: AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinopharm. It is expected that Pfizer will be the fourth vaccine on this list.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN