The number of children doing an hour of exercise each day falls by nearly 40 per cent between the ages of five and 12 and more than one-third of children in England are overweight by the time they leave primary school.
These worrying statistics have been revealed in a new report published by Public Health England and Disney which looks at the effects of physical activity on children's emotional wellbeing.
The report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 children aged five to 11, found a positive correlation between happiness levels and activity. But, as children aged, they became less active and so levels of happiness also declined.
Summer is the perfect time for encouraging youngsters to get out in the sunshine and be active. A report for NHS England in December 2016 found that the lower a household’s income, the lower the levels of activity.
But fitness doesn’t need to cost a lot. Walking and cycling are free and, for the price of a skipping rope, you will have a way of improving your heart rate, toning muscles and improving bone density, as well as promoting balance, co-ordination and agility. Playing ball games in the local park or open space is also great fun and good exercise.
One of the best forms of exercise for all-round health is swimming. Many local authorities that run swimming pools and sporting facilities have free or discounted sessions for children that can be found on their websites.
Other ideas include
- The Lawn Tennis Association is offering 2,000 free courses for children aged five to eight
- Kids Run Free encourages children to become involved in running and has events on its website
- Cycling organisation Sustrans offers information on a wide variety of family-friendly cycle routes including country, coastal and camping routes
- National Rail offers a wide range of two-for-one offers on places to visit during the summer that can get you walking and enjoying family activities
- The Wildlife Trusts charity has a campaign celebrating the benefits to children of being outdoors and close to nature which offers advice on places to visit and things to do
And remember, when out in the sunshine keep children covered up with a good sunscreen and a hat, and regularly offer drinks of water.