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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
'Timebomb' of inactive children
Sports day: But are children taking extra exercise?
Almost half of all children say that schoolwork is more important than taking exercise - and experts say this could harm them later on.

A nationwide Mori poll examined the attitudes of seven to 16-year-olds towards physical activity.

This age group has already been branded a "couch-potato generation" as computer games and television take the place of sports and games.

They found 49% of those questioned said that study was a higher priority than getting exercise.

At the moment we're worried that the number of strokes and heart attacks is on the increase and that children are becoming time-bombs for killer diseases

Eoin Redahan, Stroke Association
The poll was jointly commissioned by the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association, and also suggested that 18% of parents never encouraged their children to take any physical activity.

Eoin Redahan, from the Stroke Association, said: "At the moment we're worried that the number of strokes and heart attacks is on the increase and that children are becoming time-bombs for both of these killer diseases."

However, there was some encouragement contained within the survey.

Only one in 12 children said they did not generally do any kind of physical activity, and more than a third play actively during school break-times.

In some age groups, however, many are finding that they simply do not have enough time to exercise.

No time to play

Among 14 to 16-year-olds, 43% said that lack of time was a principal factor in their missing out.

Professor Stuart Biddle, from the British Heart Foundation's National Centre for Physical Activity and Health, said: "Many of the social activities enjoyed by children and teenagers today are sedentary, for example, computer games, chatting on the phone, or music practice.

"Yet that doesn't mean that young people are fundamentally lazy or inactive.

"What we need to find out now is how to encourage children to bring physical activity back into their busy lifestyles."

The two organisations are launching leaflets and "play packs", aimed at different age groups, which try to encourage children to gradually step up the amount of exercise they do.

Obesity among children and teenagers is on the increase, and in adulthood, this places people at far higher risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Other evidence suggests that children have a higher risk of developing asthma if they are overweight.

One third of 11-year-old girls in the UK is now said to be overweight - even toddlers are heavier than in previous decades.

See also:

04 May 01 | Health
British children getting fatter
30 Mar 01 | Health
Obesity 'starts in the womb'
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