Less than half of primary schools are recording physical activity


Primary schools should test pupils’ fitness in the same way as subjects like Maths and English to stem the tide of physical inactivity threatening to overwhelm the NHS, a new report from ukactive has concluded.

The leading not-for-profit organisation for the health and activity sector found that less than half of schools surveyed (43 per cent) recorded the length of time children actually spend being physically active in PE lessons.

The report, which has received backing from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, highlights how ever-rising rates of physical inactivity in children could lead to a huge drain on the NHS in years to come as they develop chronic conditions associated with inactivity ranging from diabetes to cancers.

A series of worrying statistics set out in the report highlight the scale of the problem and the impact it is already having:

  • Only half of seven year olds are meeting the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day.
  • Inactivity directly and indirectly costs the UK economy £20 bn a year. NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has stated that an extra £8billion a year is required by 2020 to maintain health services – on top of £22bn of efficiency savings
  •  An inactive person spends 37 per cent more days in hospital and visits the doctor 5.5 per cent more often than an active individual.
  • Inactive people are also significantly more likely to suffer from depression, and dementia than physically active adults.
  • The report describes the physical inactivity pandemic as “a ticking time bomb under the shared pledges of all political parties to maintain a NHS free at the point of need”.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said: “The current national ambition focused solely around PE lessons is simply not bold enough. We should aim higher and demand more.

“The focus should be on ensuring that children are given all the necessary support possible in order to achieve the 60 minutes of daily activity recommended in the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines.

“This does not mean we wish to see 60 minutes of timetabled PE per day. Instead, we are calling for a focus on a ‘whole school approach’. This means looking at how children travel to and from school, the manner in which they integrate activity as simple as standing in lessons, the development of more effective and structured use of play time opportunities and the provision of pre- and post school activities."

ukactive has outlined a series of recommendations it says provide a pathway towards solving the physical inactivity pandemic in schools, which includes a statutory requirement for a dedicated allocation of time for play, physical activity and cultivating physical literacy skills.

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