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Physically active children are more confident and popular: study

July 6, 2015

As well as being happier and fitter, children who are more physically active enjoy a range of social benefits including increased confidence and peer acceptance, according to a new evidence review published today (2 July).

The Public Health England (PHE)-backed review by British Heart Foundation (BHF) researchers from the University of Oxford and Loughborough University identifies the direct benefits that physical activity has on children in terms of their physical, social and emotional development. It points to strong evidence that physical activity and sport has a positive impact on children’s social skills and self-esteem.

“The positives of exercise on children’s mental wellbeing are less well known than the physical benefits,” said review author professor Charlie Foster.

“The evidence showed a strong link between physically active children and improved self-esteem, confidence, attention span and even academic achievements.”

The report’s publication coincides with the launch of this year’s ‘Change4Life 10 minute shake up’ campaign with Disney. The campaign aims to encourage children to do 10 minute bursts of moderate to vigorous activity, inspired by Disney characters, throughout the day, in order to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity children need.

This is the second year that Change4Life has teamed up with Disney. Last year’s campaign resulted in the nation’s kids being active for an extra 104 million minutes of the summer.

“Levels of childhood obesity are unacceptably high – currently 1 in 5 primary school children is overweight or obese,” said professor Kevin Fenton, PHE national director of health and wellbeing.

“This latest review reinforces the essential health and wellbeing benefits of being physically active. Breaking up the 60 minutes of physical activity that children need each day into 10 minute bursts will be more appealing and manageable for children and parents alike.”

Youth inactivity has been constantly in the spotlight this month, as damning statistics have highlighted the extent of the UK’s problem. Research released from Essex University showed fitness levels among English schoolchildren are lower than ever and still getting worse, while ukactive also made major headlines recently with its Generation Inactive report, which showed only half of seven-year-olds are meeting recommended physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day.