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Save the children

Jack Shakespeare, head of ukactive Kids, argues for a collective approach to beating childhood inactivity – a trend that has consequences just as serious as childhood obesity

Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 6
ukactive wants equal opportunities for kids’ holiday-time activities / shutterstock
ukactive wants equal opportunities for kids’ holiday-time activities / shutterstock

Modern life has engineered movement out of our days, and children are being hit hardest. While childhood obesity grabs the headlines, inactivity has an equally serious impact.

It’s the fourth biggest risk factor for mortality globally, yet only half of seven-year-olds are meeting the recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity a day, making today’s kids the most inactive generation ever.

We know activity habits formed in childhood carry through to adulthood, so failure to get kids moving has a devastating impact in the longer term.

Inactive children go on to become inactive adults – at risk from a multitude of preventable diseases that put pressure on the NHS.

We need to find ways to get children moving, and it must be a national priority.

The government is taking positive steps to address this issue and in January this year the Department for Education announced a new programme of research and pilots to tackle the issue of unhealthy school holidays.

These have been found to cause disproportionate harm to poorer pupils by contributing to inactivity, malnutrition and poorer academic results.

This programme is a major step, but these efforts alone will not turn the tide. This is a multi-layered issue that needs a multi-faceted response. There’s no silver bullet to reverse decades of inactivity.

Collaboration between our sector, schools and policymakers at national and local level will be vital to address the many factors that have led to a generation of inactive children.

New consultation
To bring together the views of these stakeholders – each with their own expertise – ukactive has begun a consultation to offer everyone the chance to have their say on the best ways to engage children in activity.

We’re calling for evidence on what really works, from those who know – parents, teachers, activity providers, policymakers, business leaders and, of course, the children themselves.

We’ll aggregate the evidence to create a report that updates Generation Inactive (2015), offering solutions to shape policy and becoming the blueprint for a collective, evidence-based, approach.

Children’s inactivity is one of the most urgent public health challenges we face. Only by coming together can we establish solutions and I invite anyone with a stake in our children’s health to get involved.

Submit your views at ukactivekids.com

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