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MPs and peers launch new Commission to increase levels of physical activity among children

November 6, 2013

New poll data shows UK parents concerned over lack of physical activity in children, as 70% do less than the recommended weekly amount.

The first ever Commission on Physical Activity has now been launched, chaired by politicians from across the political spectrum: Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlotte Leslie MP, and Julian Huppert MP.
The new Commission is confronting the urgent issue of physical inactivity in children in the UK.

“ We are supporting the new Commission because physical inactivity in children is currently at crisis point and it will need the combined efforts of government, industry and organisations across all sectors to protect our children's future health. ” - Philip Insall, Sustrans' Health Director.
The Commission is supported by the British Heart Foundation, Sustrans, Premier League, Lawn Tennis Association, Nike, the Young Foundation and Lord Sebastian Coe, as well as a number of high profile sportsmen and women such as world class athletes Mark Cavendish and Dai Greene.

The Commission will take a cross-sector approach to investigating the physical inactivity epidemic, taking evidence from organisations and individuals across the Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education sectors. It will make direct, policy-based recommendations on how to get children and young people moving more in everyday life, in an independent report to be published in March 2014.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said:
“To fight the epidemic of physical inactivity in the UK, and get more children moving, we need a collaborative approach. The Commission on Physical Activity will be taking evidence from many different experts and sectors and I encourage everyone with something to say to take part. We will be making recommendations on what needs to change, to make physical activity an enjoyable part of everyday life, for every child.”

Mark Cavendish said:
“Everyone should be concerned about the levels of physical activity amongst children in the UK and globally.  I got inspired to get on my bike young and being involved in sport has become a massive part of my life. It’s so important that kids get active at an early age and create a sporting habit for life. I’m really pleased to be at today’s launch of the new Commission and see this issue on the political agenda.”

To coincide with the launch of the Commission, new polling carried out by Populus (of 1502 parents of children aged between 3-11 yrs old) reveals that many parents believe that children nowadays do not take part in enough physical activity. 62% say they would like to see their children moving more and 70% of parents admit their children do six hours or less of physical activity per week - less than the recommended daily amount of activity for children of 60 minutes per day.

Nearly half (44%) of parents feel that their child does less physical activity than they did themselves when young – those parents felt this difference is mainly due to increased concerns around child safety (61%) and a greater reliance on and access to technology (41%). Greater costs, having less time available and greater reliance on other methods of transport were also mentioned as common barriers.
When asked which activities their child spends most time doing (excluding school sports lessons) the majority of parents (61%) stated walking to school – 40% said swimming, 33% said playing organised sports and 25% said cycling. Parents of younger children stated that using a mini scooter is a favoured activity of choice (for 30% of 3-4 year olds and 32% of 5-7 year olds) .

Parents identified the main barriers to getting their children moving, as being concern over child safety when playing outside (37%), cost of equipment / club membership (36%) and lack of their time to accompany the child (30%) - on average, parents spent 2.05 hours every week doing (or supervising) physical activity with their children. A third (35%) of respondents said they spend just up to 1 hour.

Parents use a number of different methods to encourage their children to do physical activity. The most common methods included making physical exercise fun (63%), making it part of daily life (49%), and taking part in physical activity with their child (41%).

Parents are acutely aware of the benefits of exercise, with almost two-thirds (64%) citing health benefits as the main benefit for the child being physically active - benefits such as young people who are active being more likely to be successful in life , or be less likely to smoke or take drugs  were less well known .

In addition to evidence from experts across the Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education sectors, the Commission also welcomes the submission of oral or written evidence from individuals and organisations across any sector, from parents, policy makers and teachers to ministers and party leaders. Evidence can be submitted online before the 31st December via the Activity Commission Website.   To view more details, please visit Activity Commission Website