All Party Commission to address UK kids’ “physical inactivity epidemic”

Launch coincides with survey results revealing that 7 in 10 UK children don’t get enough exercise

by Simon_MacMichael   October 30, 2013  

Boy running © Simon MacMichael

A new All-Party Commission on Physical Activity has been set up to tackle what has been described as a “physical inactivity epidemic” among the UK’s children. Its launch today coincides with publication of a survey showing that 70 per cent of the nation’s youngsters do not get the recommended amount of exercise.

Earlier this year, the UK’s child obesity levels – the highest in Western Europe – were described by academics as a “ticking time bomb” that is estimated to cost the National Health Service £4.2 billion a year, according to the BBC.

The Commission is co-chaired by crossbench peer Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie, and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP who is also co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

It is inviting oral and written submissions from anyone – whether an individual or organisation – with an opinion on the issue, and will also be taking evidence from experts in the fields of education, health, sport and transport and urban planning sectors as part of a cross-disciplinary approach to the issue.

It plans to publish its report in March 2014.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals, urged anyone with a contribution to make to come forward, saying: “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.”

Written evidence can be submitted online at www.activitycommission.com before 31 December 2013, and oral evidence sessions will be held during this autumn and early 2014, with the Commission’s terms of reference spanning the following themes:

1. How can we encourage more people to be physically active, on a regular basis?

2. What fundamental policy changes need to be made to increase the levels of physical activity across the UK?

3. What existing best practice is being delivered in or across Sport, Health, Transport and Urban Planning, and Education which addresses the issue of physical inactivity? How and why are these examples successful?

4. What are some examples of excellent initiatives that have failed and why have they been unsuccessful or not lasted?

5. In a world with limited financial resources what are the most cost-effective approaches and how can existing resources be realigned to have the greatest impact?

More details of the Commission’s terms of reference, as well as the seven oral evidence sessions it plans to hold, can be found on its website.

The launch of the Commission coincides with the release of survey findings highlighting parental concerns over their children’s health, including revealing that 70 per cent of children in the UK do less than six hours of exercise a week – in other words, less than the recommended 60 minutes a day.

Other findings of the survey, conducted by Populus among 1,502 parents of children aged 2-11 years include:

• 62 per cent would like to see their children moving more, and 64 per cent state that health benefits are the biggest reason for a child to be physically active.

• 44 per cent however agreed their child does less physical activity than they did themselves when young.

• Of those, 61 per cent say that is principally due to concerns over safety as well as increased reliance on and access to technology, cited by 41 per cent, with other barriers to exercise including cost, time pressures and reliance on other forms of transport.

• The most common form of activity undertaken by children, identified by 61 per cent of parents, is walking to school.

• Other forms of exercise participated in by children included swimming, at 40 per cent, playing organised sports, mentioned by 33 per cent, while 25 per cent stated cycling.

• Ways to encourage children to become more active included making exercise fun, at 63 per cent, and incorporating it within daily life, at 49 per cent, while 41 per cent of parents said they took part in physical activity with their offspring.

The Commission has received the backing of a number of organisations from the health, sports and transport sectors, among others, including Nike, the FA Premier League, the Lawn Tennis Association, the British Heart Foundation and Sustrans.

The latter’s health director, Philip Insall, commented: “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.”

It is also endorsed by high-profile figures including former double Olympic champion and LOCOG chairman, Lord Coe, as well as cyclist Mark Cavendish, a self-confessed one-time “fat banker” who became world champion at his sport.

Cavendish, who was present in London this morning together with the 400m hurdler Dai Greene as the Commission was unveiled, 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,” added the reigning British national champion, who is also an ambassador for the charity, Right To Play, which uses sport to engage with disadvantaged children worldwide.

“It’s so important that kids get active at an early age and create a sporting habit for life," Cavendish went on.

“I’m really pleased to be at today’s launch of the new Commission and see this issue on the political agenda,” he added.

11 user comments

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What, so Wii Fit isn't the answer. Darn it!

I'd say get 'em on the bike but where exactly do children cycle safely nowadays? I can't imagine many parents here in London letting their kids out on the road like I used to. Maybe just taking them for a walk will be enough. Leash optional.

The Human Cyclist A blog. Try it, you might like it...

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posted by sm [329 posts]
30th October 2013 - 20:45

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Look on the bright side, this so-called "physical inactivity epidemic" has its upsides, especially for the economy.

Tablet, smartphone and PS3 sales are through the roof. People are replacing their cars more often because of the mileage they do ferrying the kids to school and everywhere else (think of the lovely duty on all that fuel Mr Osborne! Smile. And only poor people walk or cycle from A to B, what would the neighbours think?

When they are not on Facebook or Youtube the TV has 250 channels of mindless sh*t to flick through.

The supermarkets and fast food outlets are winners. They're busy selling us cheaply made junk food, sometimes with 'exotic' ingredients like horsemeat, labour-saving gadgets that you didn't realise you needed plus that all-important sports nutrition for walking to the newsagent or mixing with vodka for a laugh.

MAMILs are doing their bit by keeping the LBS and Rapha in business. The Sunday ride helps burn off Saturday night's pizza & real ale binge before a cafe stop for a monster breakfast and overpriced frothy coffee. Thanks to a tailwind and jumping onto a fast group they're now up to 89th on that Strava segment they do each week so they've surely 'earned' an extra slice of cake... And you can always get decent bibshorts in XXL. Tightwads win too when the MAMILs sell their barely used stuff on ebay. Everyone's happy.

Whjich is a long-winded way of saying this: while making us fat makes them and their pals loadsamoney no-one in a position of influence will do anything about it.

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posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
30th October 2013 - 23:07

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None of my kids is fat, I don't own a car, go figure.

posted by drfabulous0 [187 posts]
30th October 2013 - 23:19

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None of my kids are fat and I own two cars - go figure. We also own 12 bikes between us. The biggest problem getting kids cycling is the safety issue and not without reason. We have the biggest youth membership at our club ever, but we have to train off-road. We need safer roads so that kids can cycle to school, to the park, to the shops, to their friends like we used to. How we get there I really don't know but education must be key. The attitude of drivers is changing, I have seen it happening as more cyclists are on the roads and it doesn't matter whether they are commuters, racers, mamils or whatever. If new drivers rode bikes as kids then part of this education is complete.

posted by Cyclic [24 posts]
30th October 2013 - 23:59

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Cars are, unfortunately, the problem but no one wants to tackle the elephant in the room. As a car driver & owner I'm part of this, but I increasingly see what the obsession with cars is doing to living standards. There is no way to allow my 8 yr old to ride to school as even the quieter routes are clogged with cars and 2 main roads are to be crossed where cyclists and pedestrians take their chances. Most terraced streets are chocca with parked cars. All the space to play in the streets has gone, even if the street itself is quiet. Cars are dictating what we can or cannot do (or allow our kids to freely do) due to the risks (speeding really pisses me off) & selfish space taking up they impose.

posted by bikerdavecycling [69 posts]
31st October 2013 - 8:45

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Parents won't let their kids ride on the roads because "it's too dangerous and there are too many cars", yet see the solution to this problem as driving the kids to school thereby adding to the problem.

The government and councils need to invest in high quality cycle infrastructure to ensure kids can ride to work in safety, and adults can ride to work and shops quickly and easily. Combine this with compulsory Bikeability training in schools at primary AND secondary level, and work to reduce parking near schools, especially in urban areas.

posted by teaboy [123 posts]
31st October 2013 - 9:41

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Kids are fat because they don't play outside. They don't play outside because they might get hurt by the motor vehicles.

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posted by nowasps [204 posts]
31st October 2013 - 10:06

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The problem is simple, cars.

How you ban cars, that is the hard part.

Infact banning cars would actually be one of the most effective health measures any government could take.

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posted by mrmo [861 posts]
31st October 2013 - 10:20

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My kids are fit and healthy and cycling and football take up a lot of their time. They also play video games and have consoles but we do try and restrict the time they spend on those. They've been riding bikes since they were really small (a strider bike meant they never needed stabilisers and got on pedal bikes at 4 and 3 respectively) and have both competed in BMX racing, with the youngest riding at national level, as well as doing track and mountain bike sessions at times. They have also done a council run cycle safety course recently, which they got a lot from.

My eldest has said he wants to cycle to school but we're wary because of the risks. There is a route he could take that would avoid using major roads and crossing those at pedestrian crossings but we're still not sure.

However, let's be clear about the real risks compared with the perceived risks. In this respect, every one of the posts in this thread so far has failed to mention a crucial point. Cycling in the UK is actually safer now than it was in the 70s and 80s when road deaths peaked. There is extensive DfT data on this last point and probably the biggest factor in road safety improvements has come from the massive reduction in drink driving.

Despite the fact that I know this, I'm still reluctant to let my eldest ride to school. I used to ride to school way back in the 70s and this included negotiating a busy road. There certainly were many incidents involving other pupils on that road, and I recall one that was fatal and another couple that involved life changing injuries but there may have been more I don't remember. So is it parental peer group pressure perhaps that makes me so reluctant to let my eldest out on the road when I was free to roam on two wheels at his age and when the actual risks were at least three times higher?

The family vehicle fleet at present stands at one car, two motorcycles, two skateboards, four mini-scooters and eight bicycles incidentally.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1944 posts]
31st October 2013 - 11:00

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Ban cars? If only! Many councils like Shrewsbury won't even take measures to reduce town centre traffic, where cars are impractical and a bigger menace than elsewhere. Meanwhile the P&R is consistently under-used Sad

It's not that we are obsessed with cars but our lives have been built around them - work is too far away from home for many, the one-stop-shop supermarkets and other retail outlets are out of town and so on. It is also human nature to take the easiest option, drive to McD, BOGOF deals on junk food (when did you last see offers on fruit & veg?), ready meals laced with sugar etc etc.

Governments increase our dependence on oil while bus and train fares have rocketed. Nobody wants to make the tough decisions that are needed as they will be unpopular. According to Monday's automatic speed control article, even the police don't want to be unpopular with drivers!

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posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
31st October 2013 - 14:20

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Simon E wrote:
Ban cars? If only! Many councils like Shrewsbury won't even take measures to reduce town centre traffic, where cars are impractical and a bigger menace than elsewhere. Meanwhile the P&R is consistently under-used Sad

It's not that we are obsessed with cars but our lives have been built around them - work is too far away from home for many, the one-stop-shop supermarkets and other retail outlets are out of town and so on. It is also human nature to take the easiest option, drive to McD, BOGOF deals on junk food (when did you last see offers on fruit & veg?), ready meals laced with sugar etc etc.

Governments increase our dependence on oil while bus and train fares have rocketed. Nobody wants to make the tough decisions that are needed as they will be unpopular. According to Monday's automatic speed control article, even the police don't want to be unpopular with drivers!

It's more than possible to make people pay for the convenience - supermarkets have been doing it for years! Make the 'convenient' car journey more expensive and less convenient and people will stop making it. Make the alternative safe, free and easy and people switch modes.

posted by teaboy [123 posts]
31st October 2013 - 18:01

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