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Over a third of children in Northern Ireland 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

Over a third of children in Northern Ireland could face significant health problems in adulthood unless more is done to enable and 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). Less than a quarter (24 per cent) of 8-12 year olds in Northern Ireland take part in the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity (1), and 34.5 per cent of children aged 2-15 years are overweight or obese (2). 18 per cent of boys aged 2-15 are overweight and 20 per cent are obese. 16 per cent of girls in the same age group are overweight and 15 per cent are obese (2). Regular exercise not only burns calories, it significantly reduces the chances of developing coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. The CSP has discovered that only 1 in 5 parents know how much exercise their children should be taking (3) and many parents may be overestimating how active their children actually are. The CSP report reveals: - 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 (4). - 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 (4). - 83 per cent of parents are unaware that physical inactivity in childhood can increase the risk of cancer in later life (5). Commenting on the report findings, Tom Sullivan, CSP Policy Officer for Northern Ireland, 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 Mr Sullivan. 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.   Physiotherapist Andrea Black from the Children's Interdisciplinary School Team (CIDS) in the Belfast Trust, along with dietician Anne Barrett from the Action for Children in Education (ACE) in the Southern Trust, will be leading their event in St Aidan’s Primary School, West Belfast. (Attendance only by prior arrangement with press office – please see contact details below). Andrea and Anne hope 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. Andrea said, “If children start now, it’ll be much easier for them to continue and see regular physical activity as the norm. We have tried to make the Healthy School Day fun and I really hope that more of the children will take exercise as a result.” Anne Barrett 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 4). “Don’t just use the park for a picnic, do something active too, like throwing a frisbee, flying a kite, or kicking a ball around. Planned exercise like swimming at your local pool can also be fun. The Northern Ireland Public Health Agency is supporting a range of initiatives to help families fit in more exercise, so the CSP suggests parents check their local authority website to find out what’s available in their area and see what’s free to enjoy,” Tom Sullivan says. 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 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 Notes and references (1) Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland. Children’s health: A study of eating habits, physical activity and obesity levels in primary school children (2005). HPA. (2) Northern Ireland Health And Social Wellbeing Survey 2005/06 Topline Results - Childhood Obesity; Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. (January 2007). The NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet in England, February 2009. Childhood BMI Statistics http://www.isdscotland.org/isd/3640.html Welsh Assembly Government (June 2006). In Perspective. Food and Fitness. Crown. (3) Survey was conducted by Opinium 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. (4) Newcastle University website (10 September 2008) ‘Children's physical activity levels hugely overestimated’. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/1221052075 (5) British Heart Foundation website. (23 January 2009). Parents unaware couch potato lifestyle risks their children's future health. http://www.bhf.org.uk/ (6) The NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care (December 2008) National Child Measurement Programme. 2007/08 School Year Headline Results. London. The NHS Information Centre. 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. 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. 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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