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Least fit child 20 years ago would be among today’s fittest

  • Date

    Mon 22 Jan 18

boy on bike

Our research has highlighted that a child considered unfit 20 years ago would today be rated one of the fittest among their peers.

These finding are featured in a special BBC Inside Out to mark the launch of the BBC’s Super Movers campaign, a BBC and Premier League partnership to help primary school teachers to inspire children to become more active throughout their school day and enhance their learning.

The decrease in childhood fitness in the past two decades has been so great the least fit child in a class of 30 tested in 1998 would be among the five fittest in a class of 30 children tested today, according to research seen by BBC Inside Out.

Sport scientist Dr Gavin Sandercock, from our School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, has found that a shift from active outdoor play toward sedentary, screen-based pass times means today’s schoolchildren are the first generation since the Second World War, who are less fit than their parents.

“If we could time travel to hold a one-mile race so today’s parents and their children were both 10 years old, mums and dads would win it by about 90 seconds."
Dr Gavin Sandercock Sport scientist

Dr Sandercock says childhood obesity has been falling for ten years but the amount of physical activity children do on average has fallen to such an extent children are now less fit than previous generations.

Dr Sandercock said: “If we could time travel to hold a one-mile race so today’s parents and their children were both 10 years old, mums and dads would win it by about 90 seconds.

“People are often surprised to find out that the number of obese children is falling and has been for about 10 years according to government figures. In more affluent areas there are only 1 or 2 obese children per primary school class – and this figure is falling.

“In contrast, about a third of children have clinically low aerobic fitness (stamina). We’ve been monitoring the fitness and physical activity habits of children in Essex for nearly two decades and this figure has continued to increase – so that today there are 10-12 unfit children per class of 30.

“Today's children consume 30% fewer calories than their parents did 20 years ago as well as eating less sugar and saturated fat. The biggest difference between children of today and their parents is what they do with their time; less of which is spent outside and more of which is spent indoors on sedentary pursuits involving screen-based media.

“Arguments on whether children should have a TV in their bedroom are redundant. We used to worry about TVs in children’s bedrooms, but our research shows today’s 13-year-olds often own 5 or 6 different electronic devices - and can choose between 9 and 10 different ways to access electronic media.”

When we looked at children’s sitting time and fitness we found more devices equalled lower fitness and more sitting time; children also sit for 5 hours a day when they are at school.

BBC Inside Out teams have filmed families embarking on the BBC Super Movers’ initiative - a new partnership between the BBC and the Premier League to help primary school teachers inspire children to become more active throughout their school day.

Each region has been following their super movers for up to four weeks, tracking their mood, fitness, concentration levels, performance and behaviour both in the classroom for children and at home.

Inside Out East and South, follows the effect on brain training as well as physical health with family members being measured by Dr Gavin Sandercock.

He said: “Just a little exercise can have huge benefits.

“We’ve known for a long time that children who are active do better at school – and our recent research has shown the correlation between how fit children are (how fast they can run) and how their cognitive processing speed (how fast they can think).

“We also know that increasing children’s physical activity levels make children happier, better behaved and can even help their exam results.”

Dr Sandercock says childhood obesity has been falling for ten years but the amount of physical activity children do on average has fallen to such an extent children are now less fit than previous generations.

Dr Sandercock said: “If we could time travel to hold a one-mile race so today’s parents and their children were both 10 years-old, mums and dads would win it by about 90 seconds.

“People are often surprised to find out that the number of obese children is falling and has been for about 10 years according to government figures. In more affluent areas there are only 1 or 2 obese children per primary school class – and this figure is falling.

“In contrast, about a third of children have clinically low aerobic fitness (stamina). We’ve been monitoring the fitness and physical activity habits of children in Essex for nearly two decades and this figure has continued to increase – so that today there are 10-12 unfit children per class of 30.

“Today's children consume 30% fewer calories than their parents did 20 years ago as well as eating less sugar and saturated fat. The biggest difference between children of today and their parents is what they do with their time; less of which is spent outside and more of which is spent indoors on sedentary pursuits involving screen-based media.

“Arguments on whether children should have a TV in their bedroom are redundant. We used to worry about TVs in children’s bedrooms, but our research shows today’s 13-year-olds often own 5 or 6 different electronic devices - and can choose between 9 and 10 different ways to access electronic media.”

When we looked at children’s sitting time and fitness we found more devices equalled lower fitness and more sitting time; children also sit for 5 hours a day when they are at school.

BBC Inside Out teams have filmed families embarking on the BBC Super Movers’ initiative - a new partnership between the BBC and the Premier League to help primary school teachers inspire children to become more active throughout their school day.

Each region has been following their super movers for up to four weeks, tracking their mood, fitness, concentration levels, performance and behaviour both in the classroom for children and at home.

Inside Out East and South, follows the effect on brain training as well as physical health with family members being measured by Dr Gavin Sandercock.

He said: “Just a little exercise can have huge benefits.

“We’ve known for a long time that children who are active do better at school – and our recent research has shown the correlation between how fit children are (how fast they can run) and how their cognitive processing speed (how fast they can think).

“We also know that increasing children’s physical activity levels make children happier, better behaved and can even help their exam results.”

 

Dr Sandercock says childhood obesity has been falling for ten years but the amount of physical activity children do on average has fallen to such an extent children are now less fit than previous generations.

Dr Sandercock said: “If we could time travel to hold a one-mile race so today’s parents and their children were both 10 years-old, mums and dads would win it by about 90 seconds.

“People are often surprised to find out that the number of obese children is falling and has been for about 10 years according to government figures. In more affluent areas there are only 1 or 2 obese children per primary school class – and this figure is falling.

“In contrast, about a third of children have clinically low aerobic fitness (stamina). We’ve been monitoring the fitness and physical activity habits of children in Essex for nearly two decades and this figure has continued to increase – so that today there are 10-12 unfit children per class of 30.

“Today's children consume 30% fewer calories than their parents did 20 years ago as well as eating less sugar and saturated fat. The biggest difference between children of today and their parents is what they do with their time; less of which is spent outside and more of which is spent indoors on sedentary pursuits involving screen-based media.

“Arguments on whether children should have a TV in their bedroom are redundant. We used to worry about TVs in children’s bedrooms, but our research shows today’s 13-year-olds often own 5 or 6 different electronic devices - and can choose between 9 and 10 different ways to access electronic media.”

When we looked at children’s sitting time and fitness we found more devices equalled lower fitness and more sitting time; children also sit for 5 hours a day when they are at school.

BBC Inside Out teams have filmed families embarking on the BBC Super Movers’ initiative - a new partnership between the BBC and the Premier League to help primary school teachers inspire children to become more active throughout their school day.

Each region has been following their super movers for up to four weeks, tracking their mood, fitness, concentration levels, performance and behaviour both in the classroom for children and at home.

Inside Out East and South, follows the effect on brain training as well as physical health with family members being measured by Dr Gavin Sandercock.

He said: “Just a little exercise can have huge benefits.

“We’ve known for a long time that children who are active do better at school – and our recent research has shown the correlation between how fit children are (how fast they can run) and how their cognitive processing speed (how fast they can think).

“We also know that increasing children’s physical activity levels make children happier, better behaved and can even help their exam results.”