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More than a third of children in Wales could face an unfit future

CSP press release published on 23 September 2009

Significant numbers of children don’t do enough exercise and face poor health as adults, says the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

More than a third of children in Wales could face significant health problems in adulthood unless more is done to encourage families to be more active. That’s just one of a number of key findings in a new report - ‘Fit for the Future - How healthy and active are our children?’ - published today (23 September) by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). A third of children in Wales are simply not doing enough regular physical activity and approximately 20 per cent of children in Wales are overweight or obese (1). Regular exercise not only burns calories, it significantly reduces the chances of developing coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes (1).  The CSP has discovered that only 1 in 5 parents know how much exercise their children should be taking (2), and many parents may be overestimating how active their children actually are.

The CSP report reveals that: - A recent study by researchers at the Universities of Newcastle and Glasgow has suggested that as few as three in every hundred children are actually doing the recommended one hour of physical activity every day (3). - In a study of Welsh children only 18 per cent of girls and 39 per cent of boys aged 15 were exercising for the recommended one hour each day (1). (At aged 11, 37 per cent of girls and 46 per cent of boys were exercising for one hour each day). - The same study indicates that 22 per cent of boys and 17 per cent of girls are overweight or obese at 15 years old. - Only 1 in 5 parents know how much exercise their children should be taking (2). - Parents think their children get around two and a half hours exercise per day, when in fact they are physically active for less than 30 minutes (3). - 83 per cent of parents are unaware that physical inactivity in childhood can increase the risk of cancer in later life (4). Commenting on the report findings, Philippa Ford, CSP Policy Officer said: “Physiotherapists are very concerned that as a society we are unknowingly putting children at risk of obesity and the development of life-threatening illnesses because people are unaware of the role and importance of physical activity in preserving good health. “The growth of sedentary leisure activities, the ‘car culture’, time and financial constraints on busy working parents and our increasing fears about letting young children run around outdoors without adult supervision, have all contributed to the problem”, suggests Ms Ford Healthy School Days – expert advice for parents and teachers To help parents and teachers get young children’s health back on track, the CSP has teamed up with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) to roll out a number of Healthy School Days at primary schools across the UK, marking the launch of its ‘Move for Health Kids’ campaign.

The events will see teams of chartered physiotherapists and dietitians visiting schools to provide expert advice to parents and teachers on exercise and nutrition. In Wales, physiotherapist Gemma Passmore and dietitian Amanda Squire will be leading their event in Palmerston Primary School in Cadoxton, Barry. Assembly Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Jane Hutt AM, will be popping in to visit them during the morning. (Attendance at the school only by prior arrangement with press office - please see contact details below). Physiotherapist Gemma hopes that following the day at the school, more children, parents and teachers will think about exercise and nutrition every day and it will lead them to building it into their daily lives. “If children start now,” she says, “it will be much easier for them to continue and see it as the norm.

We have tried to make these sessions fun and I really hope that more of the children will take exercise as a result.”   The CSP recognises the importance of a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle, so it has joined forces with the BDA for them to provide expert nutrition advice and tips. Jessica Williams, of the British Dietetic Association’s Paediatric Specialist Group said: “We know that good nutrition in childhood gives children the best start in life. ‘Move for Health Kids’ is an opportunity for us to really highlight how easy it can be to make small changes and encourage children and their families to make better healthier food choices and increase their activity levels.” To aid parents in helping their children meet their target of 60 minutes of activity per day, chartered physiotherapists suggest breaking activity down into more manageable 10-15 min chunks. The CSP and the BDA have produced a new FREE Fit for the Future’leaflet, packed with simple, professional advice to help families and teachers build more physical activity and healthy eating into kids’ daily routines (see note 5). ENDS

Notes to editors 1. For further information please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 1111.

Out of hours please call Jennie Edmondson, CSP head of press and PR, on 07786 332197 or Becky Darke, CSP media relations officer, on 07900 160349.

Media enquiries for the BDA should be directed to the media hotline on 0870 850 2517 or pr@bda.uk.com

2. Please contact the CSP press office if you wish to attend the Healthy School Day – admission will be only by prior arrangement with press office for school security reasons.

3. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK’s 48,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy assistants and physiotherapy students.

4. The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association for registered dieticians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with nearly 6,000 members. About two-thirds of members are employed in the National Health Service.

The remaining members work in education, industry, research, sport settings or freelance.

For further details about the BDA, including factsheets on healthy eating for children, please visit www.bda.uk.com

5. Download a free PDF version of Fit for the Future or call the CSP on 020 7306 6666 to order a free paper copy. Bulk copies of ‘Fit for the Future’ can be ordered online. 

Notes and references (1) Welsh Assembly Government. (June 2006). In Perspective. Food and Fitness. Crown. (2) Survey was conducted by Opinion Research for the CSP through an online poll of 2,084 British adults between 9 and 14 April 2009. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria. (3) Newcastle University website. (10 September 2008) ‘Children's physical activity levels hugely overestimated’.  (4) British Heart Foundation website. (23 January 2009). Parents unaware couch potato lifestyle risks their children's future health. http://www.bhf.org.uk/

Move for Health - The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s plan to get children moving Move for Health is a partner of ‘Change4Life’ – the nationwide movement to help everyone eat well, move more and live longer. Visit www.nhs.uk/change4Life or call 0300 123 4567 for more information. In Wales CSP’s ‘Move for Health’ campaign is in support of 'Health Challenge Wales'. In Scotland “Move for Health” supports the ‘Take Life On, One Step at a Time' campaign, and in Northern Ireland ‘Move for Health’ support the 'Get a life, get active' campaign. The CSP fully supports the range of initiatives already taken by the Welsh Assembly Government to improve levels of exercise for young people. This includes initiatives such as ‘5 X 60 – Get with it’ and ‘Health Promoting Playgrounds’. The society notes the excellent work undertaken by the network of healthy schools and hopes that the Fit for the Future leaflet can be a useful additional resource.

Recommended levels of exercise The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, in line with the Chief Medical Officer, recommends that children and young people should have at least one hour of moderate intensity physical exercise every day. Moderate intensity means that children’s heart and breathing rates should increase, but conversation should still be possible. Exercise should be varied to enable children to use different muscles, improve their bone health and develop flexibility. Exercise can involve planned sports activities at school but also includes play during school breaks or at home; walking to and from school, swimming or games etc.

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