Child fitness ruined by lazy summer holidays

Published on 27-02-2018 05:49PM

Schools are being constantly encouraged to get children moving but parents need to do more in summer holidays to keep activity levels high. Children are far less active during summer holidays than term-time, with fitness gains achieved during the school year wiped out in just six weeks, a major study has found.

The study of 14 schools across the North West tracked 400 children aged eight and nine over a 13 month period. Pupils made steady improvements in their fitness levels through the school year but progress was reversed during lazy summer holidays, in which PE lessons and walks to school were replaced with long days hunched over gadgets.

By the time they reached the end of summer term, pupils were able to run an average of 740 metres during shuttle run tests. But when the same tests were employed in September, the average run was just 605 metres, a drop of 135 metres. Meanwhile tests on the children’s cardio-respiratory fitness showed that 80 per cent of the boost in aerobic capacity gained during the academic year was lost over the summer holidays.

Lead author Dr Steven Mann, research director at health body UK active said: “This research shows for the first time that the UK’s youth inactivity pandemic stems from inactive summer holidays. In years gone by, school summer breaks would be spent being active outdoors building dens and playing games, whereas today’s generation are more likely to be found hunched over screens, watching TV or playing on computers.”

The health body urged parents to try to make sure their children spent more time outdoors, especially with games and sports for at least 60 minutes a day.. Physical activity at any age significantly reduces the risk of conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, which makes it all the more vital that we instil it into our daily lives from the cradle to the grave. Thankfully there are a great many activity camps and sports clubs across Wirral that provide a huge range of sports and physical activities over the summer.

Staying fit needn’t cost a penny though as just getting outside and playing, riding or walking will work wonders for achieving your summer fitness challenge. Schools across the UK are being encouraged to adopt a very simple scheme which means every pupil runs or walks a mile each day. Under this low cost initiative, children are told to drop their pencils, and head out for 15 minutes’ exercise, dressed as they are. The idea, which began in Scotland, four years ago, has now spread to more than 600 schools.

The head teacher who came up with the Daily Mile said the introduction of daily exercise had led to significant changes in the fitness levels of pupils, and boosted concentration levels. She urged schools to sign up for the no-cost scheme and asked the Government to make it policy across the UK. “There’s no training, no cost and no faffing. This is as simple as ‘pencils down, let’s go,’ she said. Walking, jogging or running a mile a day is a fun and easy way to get children more active, and it doesn't take big budgets or specialist equipment to do it.

Find what works best for you.

Not everybody is going to feel comfortable staying fit by doing the same things and that’s okay. The best way to get motivated to stay fit is by finding the activity that you or your children enjoy most. Whether that means playing football, rounders, hopscotch or going for a run, taking a swim or doing some yoga, there are plenty of ways to get their 60 minutes exercise a day so they can return to school fighting fit and raring to go!