UKActive Child Obesity Report - Are Britain’s Kids Generation Inactive?
In 2015, UKActive published Generation Inactive, an exhaustive attempt at understanding and addressing child obesity in the UK. It is the organisation’s first publication and a bold statement on the health of our nation’s young people. According to UKActive, Britain’s children were among the unhealthiest in modern times. The big question is, has anything changed?
This year, UKActive is asking schools, businesses, policy makers and charities to contribute to a follow up report. Certainly, the spectre of child obesity has grown like an invincible, all conquering movie villain. We’ve never been more aware of the dangers of inactivity. But are we doing enough to ensure our children grow up healthy?
Let’s take a closer look at how far we’ve come in the three years since Generation Inactive. Has Britain earned a ‘most improved’ sticker or is it time for a radical new approach?
Daily Physical Activity
2015: In primary schools, average curriculum time spent on PE and sports is 127mins per week. This is far below the physical activity target of 300mins. So, if kids aren’t also active at break times, in lessons or at home, they do not enough exercise throughout the day.
2018: The number of children meeting the 300min target has dropped to 40%. Currently, 23% of boys and 20% of girls get enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight. 1 in 4 children starts primary school overweight or obese.
Amaven Action Plan: Children should move as often as possible, wherever and whenever it's safe to do so. Adding physical activity to core lessons improves engagement, behaviour and attainment. Our Movement of the Day videos feature dynamic games created especially for the classroom.
Impact of PE Lessons
2015: The average PE lesson lasts for 25mins. This is close to meeting recommended targets. The problem is schools monitor attendance and not participation. It’s hard to tell if pupils are actually moving for this amount of time.
2018: In some schools, PE is approached as a dispensable subject. Few use monitoring systems to measure participation and impact, instead relying on attendance. Growing anxieties associated with religion, inclusivity and safeguarding are leading to less support from parents.
Amaven Action Plan: PE & Sport Premium funding is in place to help schools deliver better PE, a broader range of sports and increased engagement. With Impact Reports and fitness monitoring from Amaven, it’s easy to identify weak points and spend in the right areas.
Fitness & Motor Skills Development
2015: Measurement of physical literacy and motor proficiency is so rare that just 1% of schools conduct these tests. 54% of schools claim to monitor changes in motor skills development either independently or via external agencies.
2018: There has been a slight increase in the number of schools using digital tools to measure fitness and physical literacy. Formalised monitoring continues to be infrequent and sporadic. Schools know obesity is a problem but rarely link functional fitness with mastery of the Fundamental Movement Skills.
Amaven Action Plan: Our Healthy Schools Programme is a complete solution for monitoring and improving schoolwide fitness. It starts with Challenge Day - a launch event and benchmarking process - and aims to demonstrably enhance functional fitness, motor skills and emotional wellbeing, term on term.
Extracurricular Physical Activity
2015: Due to lack of monitoring, it’s difficult for schools to determine the current balance of curricular to extracurricular activity. It’s extremely rare to see tracking of movement outside school, despite the advised 30min target.
2018: The reasons for lack of physical activity outside school are numerous and complex. Schools cannot solve them alone. Nevertheless, they’re not doing enough to maximise chances for movement in school and offset, as far as possible, this decline in extracurricular fitness.
Amaven Action Plan: Our Home Activities are a fun, easy way for kids to do more physical activity after school. These video workouts are led by youth development coaches and include classic strength conditioning exercises. All families need is an internet connection.
What's Next for Britain's Generation Inactive?
With all the media scaremongering about child obesity, it can be hard to get a balanced perspective on how health is or isn’t improving. Interestingly, we didn’t discover any truly shocking declines in general fitness between 2015 and 2018. That’s the good news. The bad news is there were few significant improvements.
Despite the headlines, levels of physical activity (or lack thereof) haven’t changed much. Many primary age children are still failing to get enough daily exercise. If the ‘class’ of 2015 was Generation Inactive, today’s kids are Generation Why Bother. They’re disengaged, disinterested and barrelling towards a difficult future. But we can change things.
Children’s bodies are made to move. So, let’s cast off outdated orders to ‘stop fidgeting’ and ‘sit still.’ Kids who strive to move, who can’t help but run, jump and dance with abandon grow up to be happy, healthy adults with bright, successful lives.