Despite the well-known benefits of exercise, there are still many people who do not have a physically active lifestyle.
Experts have always believed that most people stop exercising during adolescence. But now a British study reveals that the discontinuation of exercise occurs much earlier in life- usually around the age of 7. This study reports that sitting has now replaced exercise when children start school. Even though the national recommendations are that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day, this no longer happens.
In this study where 400 children were enrolled, most of them exercised for less than 60 minutes and as they grew older, the amount of time they exercised also dropped. Researchers from Newcastle and Glasgow tracked the physical activity levels of children less than 8 years using monitors that were worn for a week at a time.
The amount of exercise performed by the children was measured from ages 7, 9, 12, and 15. On average, boys spent 75 minutes a day exercising at age 7 but this declined to 51 minutes by the time they reached age 15. On the other hand, girls spent an average of 63 minutes exercising at age 7 and this declined to 41 minutes by age 15. Only one in five boys continued to maintain their exercise levels over the 8 years. These were the same individuals who already started with a high level of activity at age 7.
The researchers do not know what caused the gradual drop in physical activity. An important thing to note is that this decreased activity coincides with the peak rates of obesity in children. Researchers in previous studies have noted that the greatest weight gain tends to occur around ages 7-8.
The time that should ideally be spent on physical activity has been replaced with sitting. In the past, children were the most active population. While schools in the past have always encouraged physical activity, it has been observed that students today spend more time sitting in class and have fewer breaks.
However, even outside of school, these same children remained inactive. This study reveals the consequence of lack of exercise. Obesity is already at epidemic levels and if these children do not start exercising now, it will have severe consequences on their health in the near future.
Parents are being urged to cut down the time children spend on the TV, computer and digital devices. At least 60 minutes everyday should be devoted to exercise, if the obesity crises are to be avoided.