Health

Friday 1 August 2014

Our children get D minus for physical activity in global test

Children in Ireland are couch potatoes
Children in Ireland are couch potatoes

IRISH children have been given a D minus for physical activity in a new report grading youngsters in 15 countries worldwide.

Only between 12pc and 43pc of Irish children do enough physical activity, the report presented at the Global Summit on Physical Activity of Children in Toronto found.

This puts Ireland middle of the international league with countries such as the US, Canada and Australia who also scored Cs and Ds.

We are well behind best-performing Mozambique and New Zealand where children got a B grade for activity.

It found that Irish teenagers are couch potatoes with adolescents here typically sitting for more than eight hours a day while awake.

Some 54pc of Irish children aged 11 to 15 watched more than two hours of TV a day, while just one in eight met the target of doing 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. Activity levels were higher amongst primary school children with 43pc of seven to eight year olds meeting activity targets.

The report was based on existing sources of data graded like a school report to give a clear comparison of strengths and weaknesses in different countries when it comes to getting children moving.

Report author Dr Deirdre Harrington, of the University of Leicester, said that best-performing New Zealand had scored highly for active play at home, while in Mozambique children were very active doing chores and walking to get around. "The aim of all this is to see how we can learn from each other by looking at what countries do best," she said.

Irish children scored a D minus for overall physical activity and for physical education (PE) at schools – with only 35pc of primary and 10pc of post-primary children reporting they got the recommended one or two hours a week of PE at school.

Cycling

Some 42pc of primary and 57pc of secondary pupils took part in extra-curricular sport at school two or more times a week giving Ireland a C minus in this category.

Irish children scored a D for active transportation, with only a quarter of children walking or cycling to school, and the report noted that travel by bicycle is "especially low" in Ireland.

They scored a C minus for organised sports participation, and while 56pc of nine-year-old boys and 33pc of girls played sport most days, participation decreased with age.

The only area where Ireland got a B grade was for the community and built environment – as measured by how teenagers and parents perceived local facilities and the safety of their neighbourhood.

However, Dr Harrington cautioned that this did not always translate into increased use of these facilities. She said there were still many ways local areas could be adapted to give children more opportunities to be active.

Irish Independent

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