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Child fitness levels lower than ever before: study

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Fitness levels among English schoolchildren are lower than ever and still getting worse, with a new study highlighting that sedentary lifestyles are to blame rather than obesity.

Researchers from Essex University, who previously charted schoolchildren’s fitness levels in 1998 and 2008, found that English children’s fitness levels are on a downward spiral, now declining at the rate of 0.95 per cent annually. This was despite the fact that the schoolchildren had a lower BMI than their predecessors, suggesting inactive lifestyles are having a greater impact on fitness than obesity.

As in previous years, the researchers tested the fitness levels of 300 schoolchildren aged 10 and 11 from schools in Essex. Lead researcher Dr Gavin Sandercock said the decline of school sport, despite the buzz that surrounded the 2012 Olympics, meant that activity levels continued to wane, with unfit youngsters three times more likely to get a chronic disease such as heart disease or diabetes in adulthood.

The bombshell comes in the same week that ukactive made major headlines with its Generation Inactive report, which showed only half of seven-year-olds are meeting recommended physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day. The report warned that children will remain a ‘ticking time-bomb’ for the NHS if decisive action is not taken, and called for primary schools to test pupils’ fitness in the same way as subjects like Maths and English to ensure children are meeting basic guidelines.

Meanwhile, yesterday (18 June) saw Nike launch the Designed to Move: Active Schools guide, which offers guidance, advice and support for headteachers on how to make a school more active.

Dean Horridge, whose company Fit For Sport contributed to the new guide and the ukactive report with a case study of its success in raising activity levels at Montpelier Primary School in London, said it is key that schools and parents play their part to help effect a turnaround.

“Parents know how well their children perform academically, but they often have no idea how fit their kids are,” said Horridge, who is also chair of ukactive Kids.

“Physical inactivity is a ticking time bomb for the UK’s health and it is time for both parents and schools to ensure children are improving their fitness and health levels.”

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Fitness levels among English schoolchildren are lower than ever and still getting worse, with a new study highlighting that sedentary lifestyles are to blame rather than obesity.
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English children’s fitness levels are on a downward spiral, now declining at the rate of 0.95 per cent annually / Shutterstock.com

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