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HEALTH, NATURALLY: Children less active than we thought


New research states that children and adults are getting less physical activity than expected. (123RF)
New research states that children and adults are getting less physical activity than expected. (123RF)

Physical activity is an essential component of a happy and healthy life for adults and children alike. However, there is concern that most of us, including our children, simply aren’t getting enough exercise in order to experience the full health benefits that come with physical activity.

Past research has found that most people (including children) don’t meet the recommended daily physical activity guidelines set out here in Canada. Studies specifically observing physical activity in children may have been too short and actually overestimated the percentage of children who meet the daily physical activity guidelines.

New research, using a wearable activity tracker, has examined the seven-day physical activity of 807 schoolchildren in England, U.K., aged nine to 10. The goal of this research was to determine the percentage of children that achieved the recommended daily requirement for physical activity. For reference, the physical activity recommendations in the United Kingdom and in Canada are quite similar.

The results from this research have showed that more than 30 per cent of the children averaged the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Additionally, when the children’s daily physical activity was examined, only three per cent of children were found to be getting the recommended 60 minutes of exercise every single day.

“Our findings suggest that just under a third of children are achieving an average of 60 minutes per day, but only 3.2 per cent meet the 60-minute target every day,” said Dr. Lisa Price, of the University of Exeter in England.

The researchers point out that while past research has found that children are not getting enough exercise, their conclusions have been overly optimistic and that children are even less active than was reported previously due to incomplete data. Many of these previous studies only recorded activity for a few days at a time and may not have included weekends.

“Previous studies based on average activity are likely to have overestimated the percentage of children meeting the recommendations. We do know that most children aren't doing enough physical activity, and that this has consequences not just in childhood, but in adulthood, too,” added Dr. Price.

If you would like to learn more about staying active and about your recommended amount of daily physical activity, check out the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, released by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology at csepguidelines.ca.

Dr. Colin MacLeod ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing full-time in Upper Tantallon at MacLeod Naturopathic. His practice focuses on pain management and maintaining health through physical activity and diet. Visit him online at drcolinmacleod.com.

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