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Scottish children rock-bottom in physical activity study

Global Matrix on the Physical Activity of Children study highlights low English cycling uptake and inactive Scots

Children in England and Scotland are struggling to make the international grade in their use of active transport — cycling and walking — and in their general physical activity, according to a new global study released this week.

The Global Matrix on the Physical Activity of Children and Youth study found that children in Scotland were the least physically active out of the 15 countries from five continents.

The study evaluates each of the 15 countries through their performance in nine separate categories. Each country is issued with a report card detailing its performance in each category and grading that performance between an A+ and an F.

England and Scotland both struggled in the categories that directly analysed the level of active participation: overall physical activity and active transportation.

Both countries received C grades in the active transport category. Scotland sat at the bottom of the the overall physical activity category, with an F, while England didn't do much better, scoring a D+.

The study found that in England, children between the ages of 5 and 16 made 42% of their journeys to and from school by foot, but only 2% by bicycle.

The report stated how discouraging the low percentage of children cycling to and from school was, citing the various funding strategies that have been put in place.

In Scotland, the picture was similar. The study found that just over 50% of Scottish primary school children and 40%-50% of high school students commute by foot or bike.

In the overall physical activity category the two UK nations really struggled. Scotland's F grade came about as the study finding only 19% of boys and 11% of 11-15 year-olds meet the daily recommendation for 60 minutes moderate to vigorous physical activity.

The outlook was slightly rosier in D+ grade England. The statistics indicate that 33% of boys and 21% of girls aged 4–15 years old met government guidelines, but as the children grew into adolescents, those statistics fell to 28% of boys and 15% of girls meeting the physical activity guidelines.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, and were announced at the 2014 Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children in Toronto, Canada, by the event’s chairman Dr. Mark Tremblay.

Dr. Tremblay wrote in the preface for the Global Summit on the Physical Activity of Children that the exercise in creating the global matrix allowed for the international comparison of nine common indicators via statistics gathered from 15 countries.

The study's focus was not to highlight the areas in need of specific improvement in each country, but rather to identify areas of country-specific strengths and concerns; and the illumination of international differences and disparities.

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