Study finds children less active from age 7

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A major study has found that activity levels drop in children at the age of 7, with experts warning of the impact of ‘digital dependency’ and a sedentary lifestyle.

The Gateshead Millenium Cohort study tracked the activity levels of children over 8 years, from 2006 to 2015, with each child wearing a monitor for a week at a time. The amount of exercise was measured at regular intervals at ages 7, 9, 12 and 15.

The results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, show a fall in exercise levels between the ages of 7 and 15.

Boys spent on average 75 minutes per day exercising at age 7, but only 51 minutes per day by age 15. For girls, this dropped from 63 minutes per day to 41 minutes.

The study found that children who maintained their exercise levels through to 15 years old were also the ones who registered the highest activity levels at age 7.

Researchers said much of the decline in activity level was caused by the use of smartphones and computers, as well as by being driven to school rather than walking.

The study, led by the University of Strathclyde, said the finding contradicted a common view amongst doctors and policy makers that physical activity levels dropped off during adolescence but were adequate during childhood.

Professor John Riley, study author from the University of Strathclyde, said that ‘something is going wrong in British children’ before adolescence, with obesity and weight gain increases also peaking at age 7.

He added: ‘Activity tails off from around the time of going to school, when there’s a change in lifestyle. Schools should be more active environments. There should be more activity breaks to break up long periods of sitting.’

Jack Shakespeare, Head of ukactive Kids, said: ‘Physical inactivity is society’s silent killer and the biggest tragedy is that it’s creeping up on our children before they’ve even left the playground.

‘We have to embrace creative solutions and look at how we harness our digital dependence to build movement back into children’s lives, instead of taking it away.’