More exercise needed!

Half of all UK seven-year-olds do not do enough exercise, with girls far less active than boys, a study suggests.

University College London researchers found just 51% of the 6,500 children they monitored achieved the recommended hour of physical activity each day. For girls, the figure was just 38%, compared with 63% for boys.

Half of the group also spent more than six hours being sedentary each day, although some of this would be spent in class, the researchers acknowledged.

The study, published in the online journal BMJ Open, found levels of activity varied among groups. For example, children of Indian origin and those living in Northern Ireland were among the least physically active with 43% achieving the recommended levels, compared to 53% in Scotland. I find the statistics for Scotland and Northern Ireland quite interesting, because they many not be physically active, but they seem to produce very strong sets of grades come exam season …

The most worrying statistic is the 38% of girls achieving the recommended hour of physical activity each day. Why such a huge gap between the genders?

Well the first, and perhaps most common place to point the finger is the school playground, where most physical activity during the day takes place. From my experience of playgrounds, most of what I see are boys playing football or other ball games, whilst girls tend to bunch up in small groups playing cooperative, less physical games. This has been true most of the time, but that is not to say girls don’t play football at all. I’ve taught some girls who happened to play with the boys and, in some cases, play better too! It is argued that something can and needs to be done here. This should probably include avoiding keeping kids inside when it’s raining outside. Those of the older generations may remember that never happening when they were at school, so why does it have to happen now?

The other place to point the finger here has to be in the teaching of PE, or should I say the lack of it. This is nothing new. It’s been an age old problem for years, what with all these new subjects trying to be crammed into the curriculum to ‘improve standards’. This means that poor old PE seems to be becoming what I would call a ‘forgotten subject’, where it gets done if there is no gust of wind blowing or rain present. We need to change the mentalities of teachers and children to make sure that PE is done every week, not just a Sports Day at the end of the year which is actually not a ‘day’ but a couple of hours.

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