Revealed – Tens of thousands of children ‘active for less than 30 minutes a day’
PUBLISHED: 19:00 01 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:57 02 January 2019
More than a third of children and young people in Suffolk do less than half an hour of physical activity a day, according to government research.
Out of approximately 89,000 Suffolk youngsters aged between five and 16, 30,000 of them do less than 30 minutes of exercise.
That’s according to estimates published in Sport England’s latest Active Lives survey, which suggests more than a third of children in Suffolk are failing to meet this benchmark.
Guidelines set by the chief medical officer recommend youngsters get at least an hour of physical activity – anything that raises your heart rate or makes you out of breath – every day.
A further 20,700 Suffolk youngsters manage to do at least half an hour a day, but less than the recommended hour, according to the report.
The research also suggests 83% of five to 16-year-olds in Suffolk are failing to hit the recommended guidelines.
In Essex, 79% of youngsters missed this target.
Sport England’s findings, for the 2017-18 school year, also predict around 52,800 children in Essex are failing to do more than 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
That number is equivalent to just under 30% of the county’s 180,000 school aged children.
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive officer, said: “[This report] is a big wake up call for all of us.
“Parents, schools, the sport and leisure industry and government all have a role to play in addressing and increasing childhood activity. “These results tell us what is currently being done to support them is not enough, and change is required.
“Our children deserve better.”
Sports minister Mims Davies branded the number of youngsters not doing enough exercise “simply unacceptable”.
An estimated 2,500 of 5,681 children (44%) in the Forest Heath district are active for less than half an hour a day, the research suggests.
That is the highest proportion recorded in Suffolk, followed by Mid Suffolk with 4,500 of 12,000 youngsters (37.5%), Suffolk Coastal with 4,800 of 14,700 (32.6%), Babergh with 3,400 of 10,600 (32.2%), and Ipswich with 5,900 of 18,700 (31.4%).
A third – 5,400 of 16,200 youngsters – in Tendring are estimated to do less than half an hour of exercise a day, followed by 7,900 of 24,300 Colchester youngsters (32.5%).
However, a Suffolk County Council spokesman said the 30,000 number quoted for Suffolk in the Sport England report was “purely speculative”.
They said 2,026 people responded to the report in Suffolk, with 681 failing to do 30 minutes of exercise.
Initiatives such as the Daily Mile, Junior parkrun and the Great East Swim schools programme supporting around 3,000 pupils are all boosting Suffolk’s bid to become the ‘Most Active County’, the spokesman added.
‘There is great responsibility on us all’ – Health chiefs react to figures
Giving every child the best start in life is a key priority for Suffolk and Essex county councils, according to their health chiefs.
Responding to estimates in a government report, which suggest 30,000 children are active for less than 30 minutes a day, Suffolk County Council (SCC)’s James Reeder said there is “great responsibility” on all involved.
“Of course, as these figures show, there is great responsibility on us all – schools, parents, the voluntary and charity sector, sports clubs and local government, to encourage our young people to be more active,” he added.
“In return, everybody benefits. Public Health Suffolk, through the Most Active County partnership, is spearheading a countywide campaign to encourage schools to adopt the Daily Mile, a simple and free scheme which gets children out of the classroom for 15 minutes every day to run or jog, at their own pace, with their classmates.
“To date, 64 Suffolk schools and nurseries – representing over 13,000 children – are delivering the Daily Mile to their pupils, showing they recognise the importance of encouraging young people to be active.
Mr Reeder, who is the authority’s cabinet member for health, said: “Giving every child the best start in life is a key priority for SCC and encouraging regular physical activity is an important part of that.”
Meanwhile, representatives for Essex County Council said they are not complacent, and know there is still work to be done.
A spokesman added: “We are committed to ensuring children and young people in Essex are educated about, and have the opportunity to live, healthy lives.
“It is promising to see in the Active Lives survey that children in Essex who are active every day for 60 minutes or more is higher than the national average.
“Working through Active Essex, the county’s sport partnership, our aim is to make sport and physical activity accessible to all Essex residents – particularly young people.
“This includes hosting a number of school events, projects and programmes such as School Games and Satellite Clubs and working with preschool aged children and their parents, to encourage physical activity as early as possible.
“Over the past year, pupils across Essex have walked, skipped and run hundreds of miles a week as part of the ‘Daily Mile’ initiative.”