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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
'Couch potato' children blame parents
Children watching television
Couch potato children are more likely to be sick adults
More than half of British teenagers think their parents are to blame for their couch potato lifestyle.

A third of young people believe their parents' lack of time is the main reason for their family's inactivity, according to new research.

Over half of British parents who took part in the survey - 51% - admitted to spending most of their family leisure time watching TV.

Medical experts believe lazy teenagers will go on to become unfit adults with a variety of related health problems.

Today's couch potatoes are likely to be tomorrow's sick adults

Dr Paula Franklin, Bupa
According to the MORI survey, commissioned by the private health care company Bupa, more than a third of parents were unaware of the recommended activity levels for children, which amount to at least half an hour of physical activity a day.

The survey points out that children are becoming fatter, with a million under 16-year-olds now classed as obese.

School performance

Young couch potatoes are 30% more at risk of serious and often fatal illnesses like heart disease and diabetes in later life than their active counterparts, according to Bupa.

It has also identified that inactivity can have a negative impact on school performance, resulting in lower grades.

Bupa assistant medical director Dr Paula Franklin said: "Contrary to popular belief, Britain's teenagers don't necessarily want to spend their time slobbing on the sofa, they'd like to be more active and even more surprisingly, want to do so with their parents who they blame for their couch potato lifestyles.

"Today's couch potatoes are likely to be tomorrow's sick adults.

"Unfortunately, most bad habits are formed in childhood and are hard to break.

"To get kids off the couch and into physical activity, they need inspiration from their parents who should help their kids take part in activities that they enjoy."

Healthy example

Over half of teenagers surveyed - 53% - said better sporting facilities in their local area would encourage them to be more active and nearly a third - 31% - agreed that more physical education at school would have a positive impact on their activity levels.

Children playing sport
Teenagers do not do enough PE at school
"There is evidence which shows that children closely follow the example of their parents," said Dr Franklin.

"Being active as a family will have a greater impact than just telling kids to go out and do something," she said.

But many British parents realise there is a problem.

In a new National Opinion Poll (NOP) survey commissioned by Bupa, almost four in 10 fathers and one in three mothers think their children are couch potatoes.

Research entitled "Fit to Succeed" carried out by the Schools' Health and Education Unit in Exeter, reported that parents who enjoy regular physical exercise were more likely to have children who would follow suit.

See also:

30 Nov 99 | Health
Children's diet better in 1950s
22 Nov 99 | Education
School sport is 'uncool'
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